We are What We Decide: A Stephen Toulmin-Based Moral Decision-Making Model
Keywords:ethics, morality, virtue ethics, deontology, Toulmin decision-making model, modality, improvisational ethics, justificatory ethics, moral absolutes
The ethical life, well lived, presents a bewildering array of challenges. At stake are issues of love and hate, justice and injustice, reward and renunciation, fairness and favoritism, prudence and negligence, kinship and community, kindness and cruelty, self-interest and empathy, virtue and immorality, belief and doubt, hope and despair, courage and cowardice, righteousness and roguishnessâ€”and so much more. Simply put, our moral lives are complex affairs, with multiple conditions influencing every move we make.
Making optimal moral decisions in such dauntingly complex, supremely sensitive conditions presents one of the great trials in human life. Withthis complexity and sensitivity in mind that I will propose in this paper a moral decision making model with the aim of providing clarity in our moral lives. Thismodel is based on Stephen Toulminâ€™s argumentation model, elucidated in his The Uses of Argument (1958). Toulminâ€™s model is elegant, robust, imminently pragmatic, and incorporates virtually all of the constituents necessary for rational and constructive debate. The linguistic concepts of modality and important deontological concepts will be incorporated within this model, and additional explanations, definitions, analyses and personal reflections with the aim of fleshing out and sharpening several key conceptions will be provided.
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