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Usually, ethical debates focus on topics that involve moral dilemmas. In a moral dilemma, there are two or more moral positions that support contradictory judgments or decisions. In a debate, one is expected to support one of these moral positions over the other. In general, preparing for an ethical debate can be divided into the four steps listed in the left column below.
Two main kinds of reasons can be offered as evidence to justify an ethical decision. You can offer reasons based on (a) the effects of the decision and (b) reasons based on relevant ethical principles. A responsible decision regarding a personal ethical problem should emerge from careful evaluation of both kinds of reasons both for and against all the available options.
Four Steps to Prepare
- Identify the moral dilemma.
- Identify, in detail, the moral position (how one ought to act) you must defend.
- Identify, in detail, the moral position you must oppose.
- Show how these positions support contradictory moral judgments.
- Identify the arguments in favor of your position.
- Identify those ethical theories that support your position
- Identify those reasons why the principles involved in your moral position are more important or stronger than those of your opposition.
- Identify the arguments in favor of your opposition’s position.
- Identify those ethical theories that they might use to support their position.
- Identify the arguments and theories they might use to suggest that their moral position is stronger or more important than yours.
- Identify the objections to each position.
- Identify the objections you might make to your opposition’s moral position and their ethical arguments. Anticipate possible responses.
- Identify the objections the opposition might make to your moral position and ethical arguments. How do you respond to these objections?