Building values into decision-making


People make decisions based less on what they know than what they believe. It follows that value choices ought to be examined as carefully as facts. Can consideration of ethical questions be built into decision-making in a systematic way?

InterEnvironment Institute explored this question under the auspices of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The project is described in detail in a paper on this website, Raising annoying questions: Why values should be built into decision-making.

Among techniques for incorporating systematic consideration of ethics into decision-making are including ethics in policy analysis and policy dialogues; declarations of principles and ethical codes; organizational units representing ethics; informal interventions such as experts in ethics helping to draft and review policy documents; and various adversarial methods that deal directly with moral conflicts in ways similar to those used in courts of justice. 

We think the most promising tool for starting to link values and decision-making is including ethics in policy dialogues. This must be done with care. There must be the right mix of practical-minded scholars and thoughtful practitioners. Meetings cannot have an ivory-tower atmosphere. People able to tease the ethical issues out of the flow of discussion are essential. They might be professional ethicists but could just as well be historians, political philosophers, lawyers, writers, or religious leaders, for example. The most valuable people are frequently those who move easily between the academic and practical worlds.

 

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"People make decisions based less on what they know than what they believe. It follows that value choices ought to be examined as carefully as facts. Can consideration of ethical questions be built into decision-making in a systematic way?"