Doing Ethics in a Pluralistic World: Essays in Honour of Roger C. Hutchinson

By Roger C. Hutchinson; Phyllis D. Airhart et al. | Go to book overview

ours a conviction that, in their methodologies, social ethicists must take account of the fact that democratic societies are not built by a direct application of the insights and inspirations of religious beliefs and practices. The process, he argues, is both more complex and more interactive than that, as can be seen in his ethical method outlined below. His doctoral research led him to develop an approach to social ethics that has proved to be an invaluable tool for allowing people of diverse moral convictions and conflicting opinions to engage constructively in open dialogue.

In a society that is diverse and divided in its values and vision, social ethicists need methods by which reasonable contentions for truth-in-action can be discerned. One of Hutchinson's many notable accomplishments is his method for ethical clarification. Students, peers, policy-makers, academics and religious inquirers have engaged in debate with him about his method. He prods all who have sincere perplexities, issues or contending visions to enter into a method of ethical clarification that will bring them into conversation with others of different views. His method is grounded in the presupposition that everyone has a right to speak and be heard, no matter how profoundly people may differ in their positions.

Hutchinson's method consists of four levels. It begins with storytelling and definition of the problem by all parties involved in an issue. Next comes the level of factual clarification in which questions are raised: What counts as a fact and how is it verified? What claims does each party make about the truth that could be measured in some way? How could one prove whether these claims are true? The third level is ethical clarification: To what moral standards or norms does each party appeal? What obligations are claimed? What positive or negative consequences would arise? What good or value is being served or undermined by these arguments? Last but not least (once the dialogue is seasoned) is the level of post-ethical clarification in which issues of faith and world views are explored: What symbols, metaphors, images, sacred texts and traditions ground each approach/story (personal and/or communal)? 1

Hutchinson's ethical method also challenges social-policy planners, politicians and academics not to ignore the contributions of religious thinkers and theologians in their discourse. Equally, his method

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