Value pluralism and coherentist justification of ethical advice

Liberal societies are characterized by respect for a fundamental value pluralism; i.e., respect for individuals’ rights to live by their own conception of the good. Still, the state must make decisions that privilege some values at the cost of others. When public ethics committees give substantial ethical advice on policy related issues, it is therefore important that this advice is well justified. The use of explicit tools for ethical assessment can contribute to justifying advice. In this article, I will discuss one approach to ethical assessment, the ethical matrix method. This method is a variant of intuitionist balancing. Intuitionism is characterized by stressing the existence of several (at least two) fundamental prima facie moral principles, between which there is no given rank order. For some intuitionist approaches, coherentism has been proposed as a model of justification. This article will discuss justification of ethical advice and evaluate the appropriateness of coherentism as a justificatory approach to intuitionist tools.
Keywords coherentism  ethical matrix  ethical tools  intuitionist balancing  justification  prima facie principles  value pluralism
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-006-9017-6
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