Normative Ethics

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Moral Reasoning Guidelines

Making good moral decisions is difficult and part of the difficulty is that we do not live in a vacuum. Making moral decisions are complex and are connected to different contexts. You are being asked to do an ethical analysis as compared to a political, religious, or economic one. Your research topic or case study focuses on a moral dilemma and probably has several different proposals or solutions to your dilemma.. For our purposes, it is not so important which moral judgment or moral rule you draw, (Discovery essay) but on how well you justify, defend, and argue for your moral position (Justification essay) and that you demonstrate clear and consistent reasoning as well as critical thinking skills. In making good moral judgment, you must argue for your position (the Discovery essay) using a normative ethical theory (the Justification essay). The key to recognizing an ethical issue is to be able to conceptualize the moral problem correctly in the first place and this is what our Moral Reasoning Strategy attempts to help you do; it is a template which organizes considerations to generate a decision.

Prelude. A good moral reasoner pays close attention to certain rules of thought and has good critical thinking skills. Critical thinking involves certain intellectual traits which people must have in order to think clearly and accurately and thus to make solid moral decisions. While this booklet cannot cover these rules or traits in any detail, let it suffice to say that these traits involve characteristics like clarity, relevance, consistency, depth, logic, and preciseness.

Paper A. The Moral Dilemma Essay: a statement of the issue.

In this essay you are asked to objectively lay out for your reader a moral dilemma you have encountered in your place of employment, in your personal life, or through your scholarly research. In some classes, the dilemma my be assigned to you or is the outcome of scholarly research of your own.

After observing your moral dilemma carefully, your first task is to write a summary of the moral dilemma, conflict, or case study. Doing so requires stating the facts of the case. Your summary should be no more than approximately one to two pages and should end with a clearly stated moral dilemma in the form of a question. Be sure you have a moral dilemma rather than simply a social issue or another type of dilemma. A moral dilemma is not always the same as a moral issue: Something may be a moral issue for society but not a moral dilemma or issue for you, or vice versa. This distinction is especially important in the capstone course. Your summary is simply an accurate description of the situation at hand.

Paper B. The Discovery Essay: A moral analysis of the dilemma, conflict, or case study.

Your Discovery essay should begin with a short restatement of the dilemma. The question often arises as to how one can best morally resolve the dilemma or conflict in question. In the Discovery Essay, as well as your capstone course, Moral Issues in Society, when you are analyzing your moral dilemma, you should notice that your dilemma involves more than your own viewpoint; we cannot be moral isolationists. We must, therefore, find a method of analysis that is acceptable to people of diverse moral positions. Author Vincent Ruggiero proposes three common concerns which many people can agree upon as relevant to various positions: Obligations, Values, and Effects.

1. Significant human action occurs directly or indirectly, in a context of relationships with others. Relationships involve obligations; what should or should not be done. When analyzing a values conflict, one must to define what the obligations to the stakeholders in the dilemma/decision are (Ruggiero 90). What are some of the obligations involved in your dilemma? These can be obligations to the stakeholders involved or to yourself, and could be items such as family, economics, personal satisfaction, etc. Every...
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