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Making an Ethical Decision

A practical tool for thinking through tough choices

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Disclaimer

This app has been created to help users ask good questions about ethical choices. The information contained in this app/website is provided by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University for general information purposes only. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability of the app/website or the information, services, or related graphics contained on the app/website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website/app.

Through this website/app you may be able to link to other websites that are not under the control of Santa Clara University; we have no control over the content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.

Santa Clara University takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the app/website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues.

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Using this app

This app takes you through a step by step decision-making process that allows you to consider your options using five approaches from the ethical tradition. After gathering the important facts, you will analyze each option from the point of view of utility, rights, justice, the common good, and virtue.

For each perspective, you will score your potential action on a scale. Then you will weight the ethical perspectives based on their relevance to your decision, and get a cumulative score for that potential option. You should go through the same process for several possible options as you consider which action to take.

This message will only be shown once.

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Get the Facts

What are the relevant facts of the case? What facts are not known? Do I know enough to make a decision?

Which individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome?

* Input in this box will be deleted when the app is closed.

With the facts and the stakeholders in mind, choose an option that you think might be the best thing to do in this circumstance. Now, evaluate that option from five different ethics perspectives. For each, drag the slider on the scale to indicate how ethical you think your choice would be from that perspective.

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Utility

Does this action produce the most good and do the least harm for all who are affected? What good and what harm will or may result?

How will I measure a good outcome? Happiness? Financial impact?

While the potential harm from this action may affect only a few people, is the harm so great that it would outweigh the good this action might bring to many others?

Move the slider to evaluate the option you are considering.

More Good

More Harm

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Rights

Does my action best respect the rights of all who have a stake?

Does this action respect the dignity of others?

If I take this action, am I treating others simply as a means to an end?

Does the action hurt or help others in securing a minimum level of well-being?

Move the slider to evaluate the option you are considering.

More Respect
for Rights

Less Respect
for Rights

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Justice

Does this action treat people equally or proportionally? Does it give each person affected his or her due?

Might I have some prejudice or interest that might make me favor one person over another?

Am I treating each individual the same way, or is there a valid reason to treat someone differently?

Move the slider to evaluate the option you are considering.

More Just

Less Just

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Common Good

Does this action best serve the community as a whole, not just some members? Will this option be equally to everyone's advantage?

Does this action contribute to the conditions of social life that give everyone an opportunity to thrive?

How will my action affect the resources everyone must share, such as the environment?

Move the slider to evaluate the option you are considering.

Increases Common Good

Decreases Common Good

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Virtue

Does this option lead me to act as the sort of person I want to be?

What character traits would I be exhibiting if I chose this action? Honesty or deceit? Compassion or selfishness? Prudence or irresponsibility?

What habits of character would I be developing if I took this action? What would a person I respect say about this choice?

Move the slider to evaluate the option you are considering.

More Virtuous

Less Virtuous

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Weigh the Perspectives

Below are the five ethical perspectives on your decision. Do some of these approaches seem more important than others for this specific decision?

Change the values in each box to indicate how much weight you want to give to each approach. The five numbers must add up to 100.

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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Based on your evaluation of the proposed action according to the five ethical approaches and your weighting of each approach, the option you're considering has a value of:

50

Your option is questionable. Modify it, or try another option.

Evaluate Another Option

Further Reflection

How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?