Taking Moral Action
An ethical problem may sometimes stir automatic reactions in us (cf. Haidt's, 2001, intuitionist view). In other words, we may have an “immediate, prereflective response” (Kitchener, 1984, p. 44) to an ethical situation that is based on our moral values and sensitivity, as well as on our introjected prior experiences with similar situations. But however useful these intuitive responses might sometimes be in situations requiring an immediate reaction, even Kitchener acknowledged that they often are not enough. And the immediacy of our reaction is no guarantee of its appropriateness in any event. Some problems may be of the sort that are apprehended and readily resolved by reference to an ethical code, casebook, or other available source. But some dilemmas may be even more complex and difficult, such as when ethical principles conflict (Pryzwansky & Wendt, 1999; Sales & Lavin, 2000). In this last chapter I present a suggested strategy for approaching, analyzing, and resolving ethical issues of the more troublesome kind. It is predicated on the belief that the nearly infinite variety of human interaction virtually guarantees that each of us will at some time be confronted by a problem with moral implications that is not articulated adequately in our professional or organizational codes or casebooks. On such occasions it is helpful to have an overall strategy and some general guidelines to follow as a path to taking moral action.
The strategy offered here consists of three stages. The first stage refers to the anticipatory steps that every professional ought to maintain with the objective of preventing or minimizing the occurrence of ethical problems. The second stage is in the nature of a predecisional audit based on a distillation of the 40 summary items or learning points gleaned from the preceding chapters. The third is a recommended