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Some general practical problems with the tests.

Problem: Many students treat these tests as representing different, competing theories. Thus, they go on to import several preconceptions about scientific theories into their thinking about the ethical approaches these tests encapsulate. They reason that ethical theories—like the scientific theories of creationism and evolution—represent exclusive accounts of the same phenomena. As a result, they will employ only one ethical test (usually the harm test), reasoning that it is best suited to the situation and then assume that a different test would lead to a different, even contradictory, conclusion.

Remedy: Ethical approaches are more like different perspectives on a multi-dimensional object than mutually exclusive accounts of the same phenomena. Instead of contradicting one another, they complement each other; each compensates for the limitations of the others.

An analogy will help here. When we go to buy a house and the view from the outside perspective is different from the view from the inside perspective, we don't conclude that one view contradicts the other; rather we seek to synthesize the two different, partial views into a complete and comprehensive view of the whole house. It is the same when we turn to ethical approaches. Each approach offers a view of a different aspect of the action; reversibility focuses on the internal dimension of the action (the formal characteristics of consistency, reversibility, and universality), harm on the outer dimension (its consequences or results), and publicity on the agent (the action provides a window into the agent's soul). This analogy helps convey the importance of employing all approaches, using each to address the limits of the other, and harmonizing any differences that may emerge.

Problem: Sometimes, students will make their decisions based on non-ethical grounds such as expedience (a failed use of feasibility) or self-interest (a failed use of harm/beneficence). Having made the decision on these grounds, they will try to dress it up using the ethics tests.