Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 455–468 | Cite as

Pluralism, The Ethical Matrix, and Coming to Conclusions

  • Ellen-Marie Forsberg


The ethical matrix approach was developed by Prof Ben Mepham and his colleagues at the University of Nottingham in the early 1990s. Since then the approach has received increasing attention and has been used by several researchers in different projects related to assessing ethical impacts of different food production technologies and other policy options of societal concern. The ethical matrix is sometimes understood simply as a checklist of ethical concerns, but might also be seen as a guide to coming to conclusions on moral questions. The problem I discuss in this paper relates to how using the ethical matrix method as a decision guide can be combined with respecting pluralism. The aim of the paper is to suggest a framework making it possible to – at the same time – enhance public justification of judgments and respect pluralism. I argue that pluralism is fundamental to the ethical matrix approach; I distinguish between intuitionist principled pluralism and societal value pluralism; and I show how both kinds of pluralism imply restrictions on how conclusions can be made. No substantive moral decision principles can be allowed. Still, I argue, decision principles of a more epistemological or procedural character can be acceptable even within pluralism. The pragmatist principle of inquiry is defended as an account of moral problem solving compatible with both principled pluralism and value pluralism. When an ethical matrix is used within such a participatory inquiry process substantive conclusions can be drawn.


Ethical matrix intuitionism pluralism pragmatism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The National Committees for Research EthicsOsloNorway

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