Foundational Principles for Thinking Well
In the previous chapter ethical principles were introduced as general norms that provide a rationale for the standards in the APA ethics code. These principles, nonmaleficence, beneficence, autonomy, fidelity, and justice, are derived from the "common morality" ( Beauchamp & Childress, 1994, p. 102) that undergirds the practice of psychology. In other words, when psychologists are conducting research or therapy ethically, these are the implicit principles they share. Similarly, they appear to be the principles that tacitly guided the practice of ethical psychologists prior to the writing of the First Ethical Standards of Psychologists ( APA, 1953). In other words, they were common norms. In this sense, they provide the foundation or justification for all subsequent codes, including the current one. If, for example, a standard was written that advocated or led to injustice, we could judge it to be a poor standard. In the following pages, each of these principles is articulated in greater detail and its foundational nature further explored.
As noted in chapter 2, foundational principles are not a panacea for solving all ethical problems. This should not be a surprise to a profession that counts problem solving as an area of critical investigation. Those writing in the area of problem solving ( Churchman, 1971, Simon, 1976, Wood, 1983) have long acknowledged that there are some "real-world" or "ill-structured" problems that are difficult to solve and that require complex judgment that goes well beyond the use of deductive logic ( King & Kitchener, 1994; K. S. Kitchener & Kitchener, 1981). Accordingly, a discussion of using ethical principles and ethical codes to make reasoned judgments in light of the uncertainty involved in ethical decisions is the second focus of this chapter.
Nonmaleficence means not causing others harm. It finds its roots in the history of