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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Ethical Decision Making

Ethical Decision Making resources provide an introduction to basic ideas in applied ethics, such as utilitarianism, rights, justice, virtue, and the common good.

We also look at foundational questions, such as What is Ethics? and Can Ethics Be Taught?  Our Framework for Ethical Decision Making has been reprinted in hundreds of articles, books, and course materials.

For permission to reprint or repost these materials, please email

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making provides valuable information on: Recognizing and Ethical Issue; Getting the Facts; Evaluating Alternative Actions; and Making and Testing a Decision.

All Articles on General Ethics and Ethical Decision Making
  • When talking about ethics in organizations, one has to be aware that there are two ways of approaching the subject--the "individualistic approach" and what might be called the "communal approach.

  • Everything we do--from the considerate to the heroic, we do ultimately for our own benefit. The view that human beings act from self-interest and from self interest alone is not new.

  • Differences in ethic perspective are related to genderÑthat is, that men and women follow different but parallel paths of moral development that lead them to make their ethical choice based on different ethical criteria.

  • A right is a "justified claim" on others. Moral rights are by standards that most people acknowledge, but which not codified in law, and therefore have been interpreted differently different people.

  • The need to see victims as the recipients of their just deserts can be explained by what psychologists call the Just World Hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve.

  • Paternalism involves a conflict of two important values: 1) the value we place on the freedom of persons to make their own choices about how they will lead their lives, and 2) the value we place on promoting and protecting the well being of others.

  • The social problems confronting us today, the authors argue, are largely the result of failures of our institutions, and our response, largely the result of our failure to realize the degree to which our lives are shaped by institutional forces and the degree to which we, as a democratic society, can shape these forces for the better.

  • First, lying corrupts the most important quality of my being human: my ability to make free, rational choices. Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally.

  • The case of a woman seeking refuge in the United States from her tribe's ritual of female genital mutilation raises the question: Are human rights universal?

  • "Finding the good life requires tolerance of human variety. Are there really any general claims we can make about the common features of a good life? Do we really pick out a target life that we try to live

  • Separating Cultural and Ethical Relativism

    Ethics and Culture: A look at relativist and universalist traditions in anthropology. Human differences should be understood as cultural.