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Dialogue and decision in a moral context

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One of the most widely accepted tenets in postmetaphysical normative ethics is the principle of dialogue as a foundational authority. Conceptually, the dialogical model is valuable, in that it allows a binding yet mutable underpinning of moral discourse. However, dialogue has its limits. The main drawback lies in the fact that deliberations can be very lengthy, perhaps even infinite. In other words, deliberation does not always lend itself to action. From the vantage point of applied ethics, in this case, bioethics and forensic ethics, this is not a minor shortcoming since these disciplines are concerned with situations involving some sort of urgency. Aporia is not an option in most cases. It is thus pressing to consider the moment of decision inherent to moral judgement and action that puts an end to dialogue. From the realm of abstract norm justification, one must move on to the contextualist discourse of application. To be rational, however, decision must avoid authoritativeness or any type of arbitrariness. What, then, could serve as a reasonable criteria for the rational application of norms? What aspects should be envisaged for a sound reflective decision? This paper will attempt to sketch some answers that could contribute to the question of the necessary contextual application of accepted norms by paying heed to, systemizing and sometimes finding fault in the arguments given by judges who had to settle cases touching sensitive moral issues.

Keywords: dialogical model; moral conflict; moral contextualism; moral decision

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-10-01

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