Tools  |    |  April 15, 2015

Making an Ethical Decision: A practical tool for thinking through tough choices

Tool. iPhone app released by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University is helping people make difficult decisions. The app is a free guide to help anyone struggling with a decision.

Users are guided through a step-by-step process, which begins by getting the facts and identifying the stakeholders in the situation.  Then they’re introduced to five classic ethical approaches—Utility, Rights, Justice, Common Good, and Virtue—posing questions such as “Does this action produce the most good and do the least harm for all who are affected?” and “Does this action treat people equally or proportionally?”  Finally, users weight the different approaches and get a score that indicates whether their thinking is on the right track or whether they should evaluate another option.

The app draws on the Ethics Center’s popular “Framework for Ethical Decision Making,” which has been online for almost 20 years and viewed over a million times.

“It’s like magic!” says Apple co-founder A.C. “Mike” Markkula Jr., who chaired the Center’s Advisory Board when the Framework was developed. “The new ‘Ethical Decision Making’ app turns the center’s classic ‘Framework’ into an interactive assistant right in your hand—amazing!”

The app does not give a “yes” or “no” answer, but a score to help users decide if they wish to move forward with the decision.  It can work for anyone – from a businessperson thinking about off-shoring part of a company’s operation, to a daughter grappling with the idea of putting her mother in a nursing home.

“The Center has always believed that we need a deliberate method to make good ethical decisions.  We’ve used the Framework for many years, and we’re delighted to offer it in a new medium that may be particularly attractive to a new generation,” explains Ethics Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson.