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Schleidgen, Sebastian; Kremling, Alexander; Mertz, Marcel; Kuehlmeyer, Katja; Inthorn, Julia and Haltaufderheide, Joschka (2022): How to derive ethically appropriate recommendations for action? A methodology for applied ethics. In: Medicine Health Care and Philosophy, Vol. 26: pp. 175-184

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Researchers in applied ethics, and some areas of bioethics particularly, aim to develop concrete and appropriate recommendations for action in morally relevant real-world situations. When proceeding from more abstract levels of ethical reasoning to such concrete recommendations, however, even with regard to the very same normative principle or norm, it seems possible to develop divergent or even contradictory recommendations for action regarding a certain situation. This may give the impression that such recommendations would be arbitrary and, hence, not well justified. Against this background, we, first, aim at showing that ethical recommendations for action, although being contingent in some sense, are not arbitrary if developed appropriately. For this purpose, we examine two types of contingencies arising in applied ethics reasoning based on recent examples of recommendations for action in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, we refer to a three-step model of ethical reasoning towards recommendations for actions. This, however, leaves open the question of how applied ethics may cope with contingent recommendations for action. Therefore, in a second step, we analyze the role of bridge principles for developing ethically appropriate recommendations for action, i.e., principles which connect normative claims with relevant empirical information to justify certain recommendations for action in a given morally relevant situation. Finally, we discuss some implications for reasoning and reporting in empirically informed ethics.

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