Potter Box


Potter Box

The Potter Box is a model for making ethical decisions, developed by Ralph B. Potter, Jr. [http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/em/potter.html] , professor of social ethics emeritus of Harvard Divinity School. It is commonly used by communication ethics scholars.

teps

The Potter Box has four steps. Potter’s Box is an ethical framework used to make decisions by utilizing four categories which Potter identifies as universal to all ethical dilemmas. Potter was a theologian at the Harvard Divinity School when he developed this moral reasoning framework. The Potter Box uses four dimensions of moral analysis to help in situations where ethical dilemmas occur: Facts, Values, Principles, and Loyalties as described below. [ 1 ]

Definition / Facts

The definition stage of the Potter Box concerns the facts of the issue at hand. Here is where the analyst should set out all facts without making judgments or hiding any facts.

Values

At this stage the analyst should state and compare the merits of different values to acknowledge the influences on decision-making. By referring to the specific concerns of the individuals involved, it allows the analyst to identify differences in perspectives.We may judge something according to aesthetic values(harmonious, pleasing), professional values(innovative, prompt), logical values(consistent, competent), sociocultural values(thrift, hard work), and moral values(honesty, nonviolence).

Principles

Principles are ethical philosophies or modes of ethical reasoning that may be applicable to the situation. By considering the values stated above from several ethical philosophies, the decision-maker is better equipped to understand the situation. The following are some of the ethical philosophies that may be utilized under this segment of Potter's Box:

* Aristotle's Golden Mean. Aristotle's Golden Mean defines moral virtue as a middle state determined practical wisdom that emphasizes moderation and temperance.

* Confucius' Golden Mean. Confucius' Golden Mean is more commonly known as the compromise principle and says moral virtue is the appropriate location between two extremes.

* Kant's Categorical Imperative. Kant's Categorical Imperative dictates what we must never do, and those actions that have become universal law.

* Mill's Principle of Utility. John Stuart Mill's Principle of Utility dictates that we must seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

* Rawl's Veil of Ignorance. John Rawls' Veil of Ignorance asks us to place ourselves in the position of the people our decisions may influence.

* Agape Principle. This principle, also known as the Judeo-Christian, 'Persons as Ends' principle, emphasizes love for our fellow humans and the golden rule.

Loyalties

Loyalties concern who the decision-maker has allegiances or loyalties to. For example, in journalism, the first allegiance is always to the public. Other allegiances a journalist might have would be to their employer, industry organizations or co-workers.

Using the Potter Box

These four steps do not need to be followed in any particular order because the Potter Box is a linked system. According to Potter, the Potter Box can be utilized in any ethical situation.

Two different people analyzing the same issue using the Potter Box can arrive at two very different conclusions. In fact, the same person using the same issue could arrive at different decisions when using the box at two different times.

References

Christians, et al (2001) Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, 6th Edition.


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