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Ethical Guidelines and Ethical Thinking
Guidelines or Principles
— Are you treating others as you would want to be treated?
THE GUT-FEELING TEST
— Body reactions such as a gut-feeling
often indicate the need for more thought. Intuition can give a sense of
right and wrong before our brains have thought it out.
— Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were on the front page of tomorrow’s
newspapers or on the TV news?
— Would you be comfortable if
children were observing you? Are you practicing what you preach?
- THE ROLE-MODEL
TEST — What would a
person you respect think or feel about a decision you are proposing?
SCENARIOS - It is sometimes helpful to consider the
worst case scenario. This may highlight consequences or possibilities
you had not thought of before.
GOALS/METHODS - Consider whether ethically
questionable conduct can be avoided by modifying goals or methods.
- Consider consulting with those likely to be affected in order to get
their input or consent. This may avoid unethical options all together.
Three types of ethical
- Ends-based thinking - deciding to do whatever provides the
greatest good for the greatest number. This is known as the principle of
utilitarianism. It relies on being able to predict the
consequences of different actions.
- Rule-based thinking - deciding what to do based on a rule
that you believe should be a general principle that is always followed. Rule-based thinking
acknowledges that you can never really know all the consequences of your
actions and that it is better to stick to one's principles.
- Care-based thinking - deciding what to do based on the idea
that this is what we would want others to do to you. This is known as
the principle of reversibility and is at the center of most
Be on the lookout for rationalisations that try to
justify un-ethical behaviour.
Making ethical decisions is not about applying just one of these ways
of thinking, nor is it about applying all of them and choosing the action
that wins the majority. It is about creative and reflective thinking to
become aware of the complexity and possibilities of an ethical issue.
It is about using heart and head - hopefully also with the wisdom
of the soul.
Thinking ethically is not a purely logical rational process. In the
final analysis intuition might be a deciding factor in making a decision.
Education Network of Tasmania, Australia
- GPO Box 516, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia
Fax: 03-62242455 International Fax: -61-3-62242455
- Comments to: HENT2@bigpond.com
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