cast in terms of the relevant change at hand. And in still other cases, the ELSI debates will sound familiar right down to the literal words being used, simply because a proponent of a particular ELSI perspective sees an opportunity to (re-)present his or her point of view.


4.2.1 Philosophical Ethics

Classically, Western moral philosophers have advanced two general kinds of moral theories that have proven useful in analyzing moral problems. One kind of theory, consequentialism (or equivalently, utilitarianism), looks at the consequences of actions and asks, for example, which actions will provide the greatest net good for the greatest number of people when both harms and benefits are taken into account. Thus, an action is judged to be right or wrong given its actual consequences. Consequentialism allows the ranking of different actions depending on the outcomes of performing them.

A second kind of theory, deontological ethics, judges the morality of actions in terms of compliance with duties, rights, and justice. Examples are following the Ten Commandments or obeying the regulations spelled out in a professional code of ethics. The morality of killing or lying would be decided based on the nature of the act and not on its results or on who the actor is. That is, the act of killing an innocent person, for instance, would under some versions of deontological ethics be categorically wrong in every circumstance. Other versions of deontological ethics allow for some ranking of conflicting duties and therefore are less categorical.

In many cases, persons acting on the basis of any of these theories would view the rightness or wrongness of any given action similarly. In other cases, they might well disagree, and philosophers have argued extensively and in many academic treatises about the differences that may arise. In practice, however, few people act for purely deontological or purely utilitarian reasons, and indeed many ethical controversies reflect the tensions among these theories. For example, Party A will argue for not doing X because X is a wrong act that cannot be justified under any circumstances, whereas Party B will argue for doing X because on balance, doing X results in a greater good than not doing X.

Sometimes these different approaches work nicely together in generating a more ethical outcome. Consequentialist ethics allow for managing a complex ethical situation to mitigate its negative effects. In some cases, the rapid pace of a program may give rise to concerns that certain stakeholders will not have a fair chance for input into a decision-making process (a deontological ethical concern). Slowing the program or build-

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