Ethical Reasoning is reasoning about right and wrong human conduct. It requires students to be able to assess their own ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, think about how different ethical perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. Students’ ethical self identity evolves as they practice ethical decision-making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues (AACU, 2009).
Ethics is a set of principles for what constitutes right and wrong behavior. These principles are generally taught in the home, through religious training in a special school, or through learning in the course of one’s life. It is challenging (although certainly not impossible) to teach ethics directly in a secular school, because different religious, cultural, and other groups have somewhat different ideas about what is right and wrong under different circumstances. There are, however, core values that are common to almost all these religions and ethical systems that schools do teach and reinforce, for example, reciprocity (the golden rule), honesty, sincerity, compassion in the face of human suffering. In addition, many professions have codes of ethics that professionals are encouraged to follow, and sometimes, are bound to follow by contract or law. But even when given a set of ethical precepts to follow, be they personal/religious or professional, knowing what to do in a particular situation is not always clear. For instance, many professions have a code of ethics that discourages conflict of interest between personal and organizational activities. But exactly what constitutes a conflict of interest is not always apparent (Ideaedu.org, 2021).
Steps for Ethical Reasoning
Dilemmas are hard to resolve because both sides seem right. For example, proponents of assisted suicide have reasons that seem right but opponents of assisted suicide also seem right.
For example, we value the needs and interests of the individual but we also value the needs and interests of the community: Should we keep the country open for the benefit of the majority, or close it down to benefit people who are highly vulnerable to COVID?
There are four main types of dilemmas. Each side represents two core values in conflict:
Discipline-specific Codes of Ethics and Resources
Below are some resources to help you learn more about the competency of ethical reasoning:
The Foundation for Critical Thinking
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
The Nature of Critical Thinking
Center for Practical Bioethics
The Ethics Centre (Australia)
The Project Management Institute
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy