Principlism - Specifying and Balancing

Specifying and Balancing

Once these principles have been established the practical activity then becomes that of specifying how the principles are to be used in specific situations and balancing the principles with the other competing moral principles. In using this approach, every moral decision will be dilemmatic in that the agent will be to some degree either morally right and morally wrong under a single principle, and/or there will be two or more competing moral principles and the agent will not be able to completely fulfill one or more moral principles without violating or competing with one or more other moral principles. Dilemmatic decision-making is not unusual when making pluralistic social decisions. The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution perfectly exemplifies this process. A citizen’s freedom of speech, for example, does not allow someone to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater when there is no fire as individual Constitutional Rights and Liberties are constrained by other individual rights and liberties and therefore they must be specified for specific situations and then balanced with the other inevitable competing principles.

Principlism, presented as a formal criterion, is a description and prescription of moral decision-making with a deep and rich heritage that has yet to be formalized for pluralistic interdisciplinary groups. However, since most moral decision-making ultimately use this approach, in one form or another, moral decision making in pluralistic environments is possible as Principlism descriptively describes how people do in fact make moral decisions and prescriptively prescribes how people ought to act based on the intersubjective agreements of common morality. Instead of focusing on the epistemic differences of various philosophical and religious perspectives, Principlism focuses on the intersubjective agreements, and that is why it works so effectively in interdisciplinary pluralistic environments.

Principlism could be modified by adding or subtracting certain component principles yet practically the four principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice are broad and comprehensive enough to sufficiently cover most cases and will provide the necessary output power for making interdisciplinary moral decisions.

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