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A Procedure for Ethical Decision Making



芬博約翰及芬博保羅著(John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg孔祥烱譯



In the preceding section we discussed matters of Christian liberty and suggested tests for deciding what to do in such situations. But suppose the decision confronting someone is a matter of morality. In such a case how should a person go about deciding what to do?


Once it is clear that the decision is about morality, the first thing to do is identify oneís ethical theory. This is the first step, because judgments about what acts are right or wrong, obligatory and permissible in any situation stem from oneís ethical theory. But what aspect of ethical theory is in view? In this chapter we have examined the answers of various theories as to where ethical rules come from, what makes an agent moral in doing an act, how a set of moral norms can be justified as correct, etc. Which of these issues is in view, and which ethical theories are we talking about?

[1] 一旦清楚知道抉擇是關乎道德,首先要做的就是確定一個人的道德理論。這是第一步,因為在任何情況下判斷哪些行為是對還是錯義務性及可允許的,都基於一個人的道德理論。但是,究竟要注意道德理論的哪方面呢?在前面我們探討了各種理論來源它們答案,要如何行動才算是合道德道德規範如何成為正確等我們要注意的是的一個問題呢?一個倫理理論呢?

The discussion before us is not about where ethical norms come from, nor how one should justify a set of rules. Nor is it about the number and nature of ethical norms. The answers to those questions will not tell us our duty in a particular situation. In fact, the question about what makes an agent moral in doing an act is not really at stake. We are asking instead about the morality of the action, regardless of who does it and what his motivation is, for we want to determine which action we should do (i.e., which is the morally right act) in the situation confronting us.


Since we are searching for the right thing to do, clearly our concern is about what makes any course of action moral or immoral. As we saw earlier in this chapter, there are two main answers to this question: consequentialism and non-consequentialism. Consequentialists determine which acts are moral on the basis of outcomes, consequences. Non-consequentialists point to something other than results (the act obeys a divine command, keeps a promise, etc.).


Once oneís ethical theory is identified, the next step for either consequentialists or non-consequentialists is to understand fully the situation and the options open to you as you decide what to do. This may seem obvious and it may also seem easy to determine. However, we list it as an important step in making a moral decision, because nowadays many times when one is asked to make a moral decision, the situation is very complicated. Think, for example, of an end-of-life decision. If the doctor says that your relative who has been in a coma for three weeks is really very close to death, and he tells you to think very seriously about removing all life-support systems currently in place, the decision will not be easy.

[2] 一個人的道德理論確定,下一步不論是後果主義者或非後果主義者)分了解當時的情況和可作的這似乎是顯而易見的,也容易確定。但是,我們列出它為一個作道抉擇的重要步驟,因為今天要作道德抉擇時,情況往往異常複雜。例如,想一個死亡的抉擇,如果醫生說你的親戚已經昏迷了三個星期,很接近死亡,他告訴你認真考慮停止現有的維生系統,該抉擇將不會是容易的

You will want an assessment of whether there has been any brain damage and if so, whether it can be reversed or overcome. You will also want to know what sort of machines are keeping your relative aliveóa respirator, a machine to pump blood, a kidney dialysis machine, or what? Depending on the answer, you will get a better picture of just how impaired your relativeís condition is. It would also probably be helpful to know how the medical community defines physical death, so that you can more clearly evaluate how close your relative is to death. And, it might also help to know how much it is costing to provide the medical care your relative is receiving and to know how much of the cost his medical insurance will pay.


All of these items and their impact on end-of-life decision making will be discussed in the chapter on euthanasia. We raise them now to illustrate that just by identifying your ethical theory, you donít automatically know what decision to make in the situation you face. What you should or shouldnít do will depend in part on the particulars of the situation. Both consequentialists and non-consequentialists need this information before deciding which course of action will bring the best results (consequentialism) or whether there are any moral rules that cover the decision you must make.


Suppose that you have identified your ethical system, and have gathered available information about the situation. Suppose as well that you are a consequentialist. What should you do next? The next step is to identify the non-moral value you want to maximize. Typically, utilitarians have sought to minimize pain and maximize pleasure, but those are not the only possible non-moral values someone might want to increase.

[3] 假設你已經確定你的道德體系,有關情況收集了現有的資料,再假設你是後果主義者。下一步你應該怎麼做?下一步是找出你要盡量增加的非道德價值。通常功利主義力求最少的痛苦和最大的快樂,但這並不是一般要增加的唯一非道德價值。

Once the desired non-moral value is identified, the next step is to determine which actions will likely produce the most of the value desired. As the consequentialist assesses this matter, he may want to do a cost/benefit analysis of the options before him. That is, consequentialists, when deciding what to do in a given situation, often calculate the benefit to be gained by doing each of the possible choices and the cost or risk that comes with each choice as well. If, for example, it is deemed that the risks or costs associated with a given option outweigh the potential benefit of choosing that option, that will be a significant strike against the choice.

[4] 一旦確定所想望的非道德價值,下一步就是確定哪些行為將會產生最所想望的價值。後果主義者評估這件事時,他可能計劃對面前的選擇做一個成本/效益分析。也就是說,後果主義者在一個定的情況下決定怎樣做時,經常計算每個可能的選擇所獲得的利益,計算每個選擇的代價或風險。例如,如果一個選擇所要付出的代價或風險潛在的好處大的時候,這個選擇大概會落選。

After the consequentialist decision maker identifies the action that best maximizes the desired non-moral value, that action becomes the agentís duty. It is also true that this choice will probably also be the most prudent one, for it will be the best way to achieve the ends envisioned. But, according to the consequentialistís ethical theory, the best way to achieve the ends desired is also the morally right thing to do.


Three other items are noteworthy in decision making as a consequentialist. First, suppose that the consequentialist is a utilitarian. As we saw earlier in this chapter, there are two broad brands of utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. In a situation involving a moral decision, rule utilitarianism holds that a particular act is morally right if it would be better to have a code of rules that permitted that act rather than to have one that excluded it. Hence, a rule utilitarian will analyze the situation, but he will also consult the set of moral rules he has already decided should be included in a general code of moral rules. An act utilitarian confronts each situation without any set of rules like those of the rule utilitarian. Hence, moral decision making for the act utilitarian focuses on the details of the situation confronting the agent and on calculating the choice (from the possible choices) that will best achieve the ends desired.

另外三個項目也是後果主義者作抉擇時值得注意的[5] 假設後果主義者是一個功利主義者。正如在前面看到,有兩大功利主義,就是規則功利主義和行動功利主義。在道德抉擇的情況,如果有一個規則允許某種行動,而沒有一個規則不允許行動,規則功利主義認為行動是道德正確的。因此,規則功利主義者會分析情況,但他亦會諮詢一套道德規則,就是他已決定應包括的一廣泛的道德準則。行動功利主義者則在面對每一種情況之前沒有一套道德規則。因此,他的抉擇重於面臨情況的細節,從可能的選擇中,計算一個能獲得所望的結果的選擇。

Second, the consequentialist must also decide whether her goal is to produce the greatest amount of the desired non-moral good for the greatest number of people possible, or the greatest good for herself alone. Here again, the details of the consequentialistís ethical theory will tell her whether she aims at maximizing good for as many as possible or only for herself.

[6] 後果主義者必須決定他的目標是否會為帶來最大量所想望的非道德價值抑或單單帶給他自己。在這裏,後果主義者的倫理理論會告訴他是否將好處帶給最大群人抑或帶給他自己。

And, finally, suppose that the consequentialist does everything stated so far, but concludes that more than one possible option would produce the most good. And suppose that if the agent picks one of the various options, he cannot also choose the second, third, etc. Which should he choose, and how should he decide? It is tempting to say that he should let the consequences of each choice determine the best option, but for a consequentialist the dilemma we are imagining results from calculating the consequences of each option.

[7] 假設後果主義者完成上述決定,而結論有多過一個可行的選擇達到的利益。假設他只能從幾個選擇中決定一個,而他也無法選擇第二第三個。那麼他應該如可選擇當然我們可以說讓每個選擇的後果確定最佳的抉擇,但是,對於一個後果主義者,想像的困境源計算每個選擇的結果。

So, how should he proceed? Non-consequentialists might encourage the consequentialist to consider whether there are any moral rules (commanded by God, enjoined by reason, etc.) that attach to the various options, and then choose the option that fulfills the most significant moral rules. The problem with this advice is that for the consequentialist the only moral rules available are the ones that result from calculating which action results in the best consequences. But, the consequentialist has already done the calculating, and it appears that more than one choice would maximize the most of the non-moral good the consequentialist wants to produce.


So what should the consequentialist choose in such a situation? If more than one possible choice seems to produce the greatest good, but the agent canít do more than one of the options, he is free to choose whichever one he wants. As long as he chooses an option that maximizes the desired good, he will fulfill his moral duty, and there will be no moral demerits for failing to choose the other most serious contenders.


Suppose now that a non-consequentialist confronts the moral decision. He has gathered all the relevant information about the situation, and he has identified his own moral theory. How would the non-consequentialist go about deciding what to do? Since non-consequentialists determine the moral rightness or wrongness of an action on grounds other than results of the act, they likely would address the situation with the moral rules or principles their theory enjoins. The non-consequentialist will ask himself whether his theory contains a moral rule (or more than one) that covers either directly or indirectly the situation confronting him. If the situation he confronts requires him to give aid in dying to a relative, and if his ethical theory tells him that it is morally wrong to take innocent life, that rule will directly address this situation and urge him not to help the person die.

現在讓我們假設一個非後果主義者面臨道德抉擇。[1] 他已經確定了自己的道德理論,[2] 收集了對面對的情況所有有關資料。這非後果主義者要怎樣抉擇呢[3] 由於非後果主義者確定行動的道德正誤的基礎不是行動的結果,他們很可能會以道德或道德原則解決問題。非後果主義者會問自己,他的理論是否包含一個或多個道德律,可以直接或間接使用於他面對的情況。如果情況需要他幫助一個將死的親戚,又如果他的倫理理論告訴他,奪去無辜的生命是道德錯誤,這道德將直接解決這情況,催促他不要幫助親戚尋

On the other hand, imagine someone who videotapes a popular show and then learns that his friends didnít see the show. He invites them to his house to see the program, but as they enter his home, he requires them to pay two dollars apiece for the right to see the show. Now it is highly unlikely that there is an ethical theory that specifically forbids the videotaping and charging of admission to see a television program. However, the person in question does believe that there is a rule that forbids stealing for personal gain what doesnít belong to him. As he thinks about charging his friends an admission fee to see the videotaped show, he realizes that what he is doing actually qualifies as stealing. That is, he sees that his ethical rule that forbids stealing indirectly prohibits his charging admission to see a videotaped program.


So, after the non-consequentialist identifies his ethical theory and gathers information about the situation confronting him, he looks for moral rules that are relevant to the case in point. Suppose he identifies several rules that seem to apply, or perhaps there is only one rule, but it applies to several different individuals involved in the situation before him. At first glance, it would seem that he would know what to do or not do. But imagine that there are two rules that apply but he cannot obey both, for the choosing of either makes choosing the other impossible.

[4] 因此,果主義者確定了自己的倫理理論,也收集了他面對的情況的資料,找尋個案有關的道德規則。假如他找到幾個應用的規則,或者是一個規則,但在這情況下適用於多個不同的人。乍看,似乎他會知道什麼可以做或不能做。但如果有兩個適用的規則​​他不能同時遵守,也就是選擇了其中一個就不能選擇另一個。

Think, for example, of the situation recorded in Daniel 3, the choice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to make. They were required to bow down and worship the image Nebuchadnezzar set up in the plain of Dura. On the one hand, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know that they are supposed to worship only the God of Israel. On the other hand, there is a moral rule that says they must obey those who have political or governmental authority over them. If they choose to obey the King, they will anger God, and if they refuse to worship anyone but Yahweh, they will infuriate the King. They canít obey both rules, so which of the two should they obey?


Now Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never read Geislerís book on ethics; still letís imagine that their preferred way of solving moral dilemmas is hierarchicalism. And, suppose that their form of hierarchichalism is more like Rossís than Geislerís version. We suspect that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego held some form of a divine command theory of ethics. Clearly, worshiping God alone was more important to them than obeying the king. Were they guilty for refusing to obey the King? Not according to hierarchicalism, for one cannot be guilty of failing to do what one cannot do.


For non-consequentialists who hold ethical views like those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and who face a moral dilemma of the sort the three Hebrews faced, they should use the decision making procedure described in the previous paragraph. But letís imagine a more complicated situation involving a woman who is three months pregnant. During a routine visit to her doctor, the doctor is disturbed by what she sees. She runs a battery of tests and concludes that her patient has uterine cancer. Moreover, it appears to be far more advanced than she or her patient could imagine. Chemotherapy should begin immediately if there is any hope to save her life.


Now, this woman believes that it is wrong to take innocent life, but she faces a situation where two innocent lives are at stake, hers and the babyís. If she refuses to start treatment immediately, the baby will live but she wonít. If she starts treatment, she will likely recover from the disease, but the chemotherapy will kill the baby. There is only one rule that applies in this situation, but it applies to two people, and it seems impossible to obey the rule in relation to both the mother and child. So what should she doósave her own life or that of the baby?


Initially she will probably reflect further on her moral code to see if there is some other rule that also would apply in this situation, a rule that would help to identify which personís life she should preserve. Letís imagine that this woman already has two other children. She, of course, has duties related to the care and nurture of those children, but if she sacrifices her own life, she wonít be able to fulfill her duties to the other children, nor will she be involved in the nurturing of the new baby. On the other hand, if she consents to an abortion and her own treatment for cancer begins and succeeds, she cannot preserve the babyís life, but she will be able to meet her duties to her husband and two other children. Given the alternatives, it is likely she will opt for the abortion, arguing that the abortion allows her to fulfill two obligations whereas not having an abortion allows her to fulfill only one. If she is a hierarchicalist, her theory about moral dilemmas will mean that whichever life she saves, she wonít be guilty for failing to save both.


But letís adjust this situation just a bit. Letís imagine that the pregnant mother has no other children, and her husband is still alive. Though her husband will be very sad if she dies, she doesnít believe there is a moral rule that demands her to keep her husband happy. And, though she wonít be alive to help with her husbandís needs if she saves the babyís life, still her husband will be able to function. So we are imagining that the only rule that applies in this case is the one about not taking innocent life. The developing babyís life is neither more nor less valuable than the expectant motherís. What should she do, and how should she decide? In our opinion, in such a case the only option open to her is to consult the consequences of each act (saving herself or saving the baby). Depending on how she evaluates the results of each choice, she will either choose to save the baby or herself.


Having read what we have just said, one might complain that following this procedure turns one into a consequentialist. While we understand the concern, we disagree. If at the outset, rather than searching for moral rules that relate to the situation, the agent immediately moves to calculate the consequences of choosing each option, then that is functioning as a consequentialist. However, in the cases just imagined the expectant mother has first identified the moral rules that apply to her situation. She has thought and thought about how she can fulfill her duty both to herself and her baby. All the relevant moral rules have been consulted, and she still doesnít know which person to save. She has gone as far as a non-consequentialist can go in evaluating relevant rules.


At such a point, what other option is there but to consult consequences of each act? If she reflects on the consequences of each act and prefers one set more than the other, that doesnít mean that the option with the best outcomes becomes her dutyóshe doesnít turn into a consequentialist! Her duty has already been defined by the rule that no one is to take innocent life. The problem is that she has two lives to preserve, and she cannot save both. What can a non-consequentialist in such a situation do other than consult consequences? But consulting consequences at this stage of the decision making process does not turn her into a consequentialist!


If she saves herself, that is morally permissible in this situation. If she saves the baby, that is also permissible, but it also involves sacrifice of her own life, which is not morally obligatory; hence it is a work of supererogation. Since such acts are not obligatory, if she sacrifices her life, she has broken no moral rule.


Thankfully, many moral decisions non-consequentialists face donít generate a moral dilemma. Thankfully as well, many moral dilemmas that do arise are much easier to decide than the one involving the imagined pregnant woman. But if difficult moral dilemmas do arise, the decision making procedure outlined above seems to us the best way for a non-consequentialist to handle them.






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SOURCE: John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg (2010): Ethics for a brave new world, second edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway), 55-61 (excerpt from chapter 1).