The Ethical Process: An Approach to Disagreements and Controversial Issues (3rd Edition)

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9780130988898: The Ethical Process: An Approach to Disagreements and Controversial Issues (3rd Edition)

This hands-on workbook helps learners develop conceptual tools and argumentative strategies to move beyond merely having opinions to discovering and evaluating the information, values, and assumptions that underlie different positions on controversial issues and cases. It shows readers how to move from contentious debates to productive dialogues, and how to increase a group's resources so they can make better decisions. Chapter topics cover an introduction to the ethical process, the resources for the ethical process, understanding alternative points of view, evaluating arguments from different ethical approaches, and the ethical process as an argumentative dialogue. For individuals who want to 1) understand and master the skills needed to engage in ethical reflection and analysis, and 2)experience ethics as a practice to be used when faced with disagreements.

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From the Back Cover:

This new edition of The Ethical Process serves as an excellent supplement for courses in applied ethics and controversial issues. Employing a "workbook" presentation, the text provides students with a method of understanding the ethical dimension of issues and for making ethical decisions. The text's method helps students identify and sort out competing values and assumptions and critically examine their normative significance.

New to the Third Edition
  • New material on the 'ethic of care'
  • Additional material on interpretation
  • New material on the nature of disagreement
  • Enhanced use of the dialogical approach in previous editions

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

This workbook is designed primarily as a supplementary text for applied ethics courses and other courses that work with controversial issues. It complements other textbooks that provide ethical theories, issues, and cases. But unlike most of these books, it offers a method that helps students to understand and evaluate the underlying reasons for disagreements on different issues.

The workbook will be most useful in classes and seminars where students become engaged in conversations about significant disagreements. They can use the methods presented here to sort out the observations, values, and assumptions of different views and then to critically examine their normative significance. Students will learn to balance understanding and judging, describing and evaluating, inquiring and advocating—the main dynamics of the ethical process.

The workbook continues a long tradition of linking ethics to public deliberation about controversial issues. Ethics here is the work of citizens. By public deliberation I mean a process where people make their knowledge available to each other so it can be openly evaluated and used in making the best decision possible. The "best decision possible" will always be that decision that has access to the most knowledge available and to the right normative standards.

Chapter One describes some of the general characteristics of the ethical process and sets the stage for using it. It assumes that ethics is an activity that begins when people disagree about what should be done. So the chapter gives students a chance to explore the role of disagreement in everyday life and shows them how to use these "disagreeable" experiences as occasions for starting a process of ethical reflection. Chapter Two presents the key resources behind disagreements that increase a group's capacity to decide what should be done. Chapter Three shows how to use the logic of the syllogism, as well as other methods, as ways of uncovering and understanding these resources. (See Appendix One for additional information on the syllogism.) This chapter is arranged so that participants practice the different steps of the process as they learn about them. Chapter Four provides three different ethical approaches to evaluate the materials discussed in Chapter Three. The final chapter lays out a model for applying the whole process to controversial issues by developing "argumentative dialogues."

The"argumentative dialogue" method brings together two current strands in ethical theory, one emphasizing good reasons and the other emphasizing good relationships or care. Some might call this the masculine and feminine sides of ethical reflection (see page 51 for the role of feminist ethics in the normative aspect of the Ethical Process). This method invites people to use the argumentative structures as a way of developing resources for all involved. Appendix Two provides an example of an argumentative dialogue.

One theme woven throughout the text is the availability of multiple resources for making decisions. They include both the different resources that support proposals—observations, value judgments, and assumptions—and the three levels of interpretation—individual, organizational, and social. They also include the various aspects of human conduct—the context, the agents who must decide, the act of deciding, and the purpose of deciding. These elements of human! conduct are employed in the "Starting Points" (Chapter One), in the presentation of the three ethical approaches (Chapter Four), and in the Storyboard (Chapter Five). The resources for making decisions and the different aspects of human conduct provide an abundance of explicit and implicit resources for making good decisions.

As you become familiar with the workbook, you will find different ways to use it. Students can develop class presentations, using the argumentative dialogue in Appendix Two as a model. You can also use the worksheets in class discussions of controversial issues, or students may use the argumentative framework to outline an author's arguments.

The method presented here has been used outside the classroom in corporate and public settings, as part of corporate training programs and public employee education. It has been translated into German, Polish, and Spanish. As we become more and more aware of the demands of living in one world, the skills this book provides will become increasingly important.

For more material on the ethical process, consult my book, Working Ethics: Strategies for Decision Making and Organizational Responsibility (Regent Press, 2001).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank the many students who have contributed to this workbook's development. Many of the changes in this edition are the result of student questions and suggestions. Special thanks to Eugene Muscat and Gates McKibben for their support at the beginning of this project. I am also grateful to Gene Ulansky, Debby Stuart, Georges Enderle, Warren A. French, Toni Wilson, and Mark Brown for helping to improve the workbook in its various editions. Thank you to Joy Benson, University of Illinois at Springfield, for reviewing this edition of the book. I also wish to express my gratitude to Horacio Bolaños and Humberto Penaloza for introducing the Ethical Process to South America. Finally, I wish to dedicate this workbook to my wife, Erdmut, who continues to co-create a context of care and thoughtfulness that makes writing possible.

Marvin T. Brown
Berkeley, California

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