36262_CH04_FINAL-1 - Chapter 4 Reinforcing and Enlarging...

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T hree major alternative approaches to grounding and organizing ethical thinking are drawn from philosophic traditions: These approaches are based on virtue, principle, and consequences. Each has important advantages and amplifies the understanding of duty, but each has shortcom- ings as well, especially if used alone and in a limited or distorted way. As noted in the previous chapter, it is possible to develop a robust and highly relevant set of ethical expectations based on examination of the require- ments of public duty. Extending the discussion to consider philosophical approaches, how- ever, is important for three reasons. First, it is not possible to describe the basic responsibilities of public administrators without reference to these traditions, particularly virtue and principle. For example, we have already considered the service orientation, which reflects the virtue of benevolence and the principle of procedural fairness. The values that support the com- plementary relationship of administrators and political superiors presume that administrators are ethically grounded. Having greater understanding of the perspectives helps to deepen the understanding of ethical choices based on a sense of duty-based responsibility. Second, the duty-based responsibilities are useful as far as they go, but these responsibilities do not attempt to probe the nature of goodness, the meaning of justice, or the weighing of benefits. Understanding the philosophic perspectives helps to broaden the range of ethical choices beyond those that might be identified considering duty alone. Third, using all the perspectives can help to assure Reinforcing and Enlarging Duty: Philosophical Bases of Ethical Behavior and the Ethics Triangle 17a Chapter 4 47
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that all possible options have been considered in examining a complex eth- ical decision. The perspectives help to identify and sort out ethical choices. The major contenders for the selection as the philosophical base of administrative ethics are virtue, principle, and consequences. These approaches have been summarized well by Richter, Burke, and Doig (1990, 2–3) in their essay for the American Society for Public Administration col- lection of readings, Combating Corruption/Encouraging Ethics. 18 The first, which looks to the qualities of the good person for the standards of ethical conduct, has been advanced by Cooper (1987) and the Josephson Institute (1988) among others. The second, the principle-based approach, applies universal principles to determine ethical choices, as advocated by Ralph Chandler (1994) and by David Hart (1974) drawing on Rawls’ theory of justice. Although Kathryn Denhardt (1988, 53) is reluctant to make a clear-cut choice between deontological (principle) and teleological (conse- quences) approaches to ethics, she acknowledges that she considers the former approach to be “more defensible.” The consequentialist approach, a third perspective, looks at the results of actions and seeks to promote
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36262_CH04_FINAL-1 - Chapter 4 Reinforcing and Enlarging...

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