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Ethical Reasoning

What is Ethical Reasoning?
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Ethical reasoning helps determine and differentiate between right thinking, decisions, and actions and those that are wrong, hurtful and/or harmful— to others and to ourselves. Ethics is based on and motivated by facts, values, emotions, beliefs, emotions, and feelings. Ethical actions are based on conscientious reasoning of facts based on moral principles and standards.

Three Criteria in Ethical Reasoning

The following criteria can be used in ethical reasoning according to Weiss:

  1. Moral reasoning must be logical. Assumptions and premises, both factual and inferred, used to make judgments should be known and made explicit.
  2. Factual evidence cited to support a person’s judgment should be accurate, relevant, and complete.
  3. Ethical standards used in reasoning should be consistent. When inconsistencies are discovered in a person’s ethical standards in a decision, one or more of the standards must be modified (Weiss, 2014).

Moral Responsibility Criteria

A major aim of ethical reasoning is to gain a clear focus on problems to facilitate acting in morally responsible ways. Individuals are morally responsible for the harmful effects of their actions when

  1. they knowingly and freely acted or caused the act to happen and knew that the act was morally wrong or hurtful to others and
  2. they knowingly and freely failed to act or prevent a harmful act, and they knew it would be morally wrong for a person to do this.

Although there is no universal definition of what sets up a morally wrong act, it is commonly defined as an act that causes physical or emotional harm to another person (Weiss, 2014). Two conditions that eliminate a person’s moral responsibility for causing injury or harm are ignorance and inability (Velasquez, 1998). However, persons who intentionally prevent themselves from knowing that a harmful action will occur are still responsible.

© The University of Law Business School
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