ETHICAL DILEMMAS How do we know what is right to do?
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ETHICAL DILEMMAS How do we know what is right to do? Slide 2 Introduction You can save the life of only one of the following. Which one would you choose? 1. A child or an adult 2. A stranger or your dog 3. Hitler or lassie 4. Your spouse or a Nobel Laureate 5. A dog or a weasel 6. Your entire family or the entire canine species 7. A bottle with the cure for cancer or your brother 8. A bottle with the cure for cancer or your brother who just gave you one of his kidneys Slide 3 Introduction What would you choose to do? 1. Your teacher accidentally left the final exam paper on the photocopier. You could a) take it b) leave it 2. You just found that your roommate A has been stealing from roommate B. A is a very selfish brat that everyone dislikes. You could a) do nothing b) tell A in private to stop c) tell B 3. You just saw Bill Gates dropping a $100 bill on the street in front of you. You could a) take it b) leave it c) call out to Bill Slide 4 AGENDA Ethical Systems Case Studies Ethical Dilemmas Slide 5 ETHICAL SYSTEM #1 DIVINE COMMAND Description God says so Moral standards depend on God who is all-knowing Any act that conforms to the law of God is right; an act that breaks God's law is wrong Example Christian religions point believers to rules like the Ten Commandments Problems Can be arbitrary depending on interpretation Can we know the true divine authority? What if there are multiple divine authorities? Slide 6 ETHICAL SYSTEM #2 - DEONTOLOGY Description It is my duty / the rule to do so Emphasis is on independent moral rules and duties, not on consequences deon duty logos science Deontology the science of duty To make the correct moral choices What are our moral duties? What are the correct rules which regulate those duties? Need to follow moral rules with the correct intentions or motivations But, a correct motivation alone is never a justification It is also not enough to simply believe that something is the correct duty to follow Duties and obligations must be determined objectively and absolutely, not subjectively Examples Ex-UWC student as soldier in Israeli army Teacher-on-call at RCNUWC Slide 7 ETHICAL SYSTEM #2 - DEONTOLOGY Types Duty Theories An action is morally right if it is in accord with some list of duties and obligations Rights Theories People should be legally free to do whatever they wish so long as their actions do not impinge upon the rights of others Also called Libertarianism Contractualism An action is morally right if it is in accordance with the rules that rational moral agents would agree to observe upon entering into a social relationship (contract) for mutual benefit Slide 8 ETHICAL SYSTEM #2 - DEONTOLOGY Problems Which rules or duties to follow, regardless of consequences? Duties valid in the 18 th century may no longer be valid today But who to decide? How to decide? There is no clear way to resolve conflicts between moral duties How to choose between two moral duties? Not to lie Not to harm others Choose lesser of two evils? But based on which evil has more harmful consequences Therefore choice no longer based on absolute principles, rules Slide 9 ETHICAL SYSTEM #3 - TELEOLOGY Description Only consequences matter Focus on the consequences which any action might have often referred to as consequentialist moral systems telos the end logos - science Teleologoy: the science of ends Actions are judged right or wrong solely by their consequences If actions have the correct consequences, one has acted morally To make decisions, need to ask What will be the consequences of this action? What will be the consequences of inaction? How do I weigh the harm against the benefits of this action? Slide 10 ETHICAL SYSTEM #3 - TELEOLOGY Types Ethical Egoism Consequences of the action to the moral agent performing the action. Ethical Altruism Consequences of the action to everyone except the moral agent. Ethical Utilitarianism Consequences of the action to everyone. Choose the action that brings the greatest utility or happiness to the greatest number of people Example US dropping atomic bomb on Japan Slide 11 ETHICAL SYSTEM #3 - TELEOLOGY Problems Cannot know the full consequences of actions How to quantify the consequences in terms of human happiness? The end justifies the means Why should one take responsibility for ALL the consequences of ones actions? One may not know what they are One may not be able to control the consequences unintended consequences Determinism we do not deserve to be punished Slide 12 ETHICAL SYSTEM #4 VIRTUE ETHICS Description Only intentions matter Virtue ethics focuses on helping people develop good character traits, which will, in turn, allow a person to make the correct decisions later on in life Platos four virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance and justice Emphasis is on intentions and motives, not consequences We should desire certain outcomes and that we should want to accomplish certain goals by our actions Example: A school faculty determines that a student council officer with a genuine interest to serve deserves more recognition than one who just wants to beef up his resume Key questions to ask to make decisions What sort of person do I want to be? What virtues are characteristic of the person I want to be? What actions will cultivate the virtues I want to possess? What actions will be characteristic of the sort of person I want to be? Slide 13 ETHICAL SYSTEM #4 VIRTUE ETHICS Problems Many moral dilemmas require a great deal of careful reasoning and thinking simply having the right character cannot be enough to even make the right decision What are the right sort of character is which a person should have? Ask a virtuous person Ask a happy person But one persons virtue may be another persons vice Slide 14 ETHICAL SYSTEM #5 - RELATIVISM Description Ethics is relative No principles are universally valid All moral principles are valid relative to cultural tastes The rules of the society serve as a standard Example South Seas Islanders practice cannibalism Cannibalism is strictly prohibited in the U.S. Strengths Brings about tolerance of other cultures. Problem Confuses what ought to be done with what is currently done Does not provide guidance on how to decide what to do! Slide 15 AGENDA Ethical Systems Case Studies Ethical Dilemmas Slide 16 ETHICAL SYSTEMS CASE STUDIES Case 1 Enu, the old grandmother of an Shoshone tribe, could no longer chew the buffalo hides to make them supple enough for making items of clothing When winter came and food supplies were not sufficient for all, it was decided by the tribe that Enu would be left alone on a nearby hill to die Ethical relativism The decision was based on the mores or traditions of the tribe Case 2 Rachel has fallen in love with Nathan, a schoolmate in a small religious school set up by a Christian sect Her parents forbid a marriage with Nathan and make arrangements for Rachel to marry Peter, another youth in the church Rachel married Peter Divine command The decision was based on one of The Ten Commandments - honor thy mother and father, for instance Slide 17 ETHICAL SYSTEMS CASE STUDIES Case 3 Rachel visited her friend Sarah in the hospital Sarah had been badly burned and blinded in a car accident and seemed most concerned about how disfigured she might look She asks Rachel how awful she looks Rachel lies to Sarah and tells her the effects of the burn are not bad at all Teleology (Ethical altruism) The decision was based on the best consequence for Sarah Case 4 Hank is not religious He witnesses a man known to be quite wealthy drop a money clip containing several large bills Hank could definitely use the money to help buy clothes for his eight foster children Hand returns the money to the man Deontology The decision was based on the worth of the individual who should never be used as a means to an end. OR Virtue Ethics He acts out of spontaneous goodness Slide 18 ETHICAL SYSTEMS CASE STUDIES Case 5 In Germany during 1942 A Christian soldier, whose close friend is imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp, finds himself in a crowd with his leader, Adolf Hitler He views the Fuhrer as ruthless and dangerous to his country Being armed, he considers killing Hitler After a few moments of hesitation, the soldier assassinates Adolf Hitler Teleology (ethical utilitarianism) The decision was based on the best consequence for the most people Slide 19 AGENDA Ethical Systems Case Studies Ethical Dilemmas Slide 20 Dilemma #1 Rules and Exceptions Stick to the Rule, or Make an Exception for a Good Student? James is a fourth-grade classroom teacher whose homework policy is that Homework for the week goes home on Friday and is due the following Thursday It is the students' choice to do it or not If homework is not completed and handed in on Friday, students will serve detention during one recess period. Raoul is an excellent student who always finishes his work and he does it well. He is a sensitive and dedicated student, who strives hard to please. One Wednesday, Raoul was sick and out of school, and the following day he forgets to bring his homework to class. This is the first time Raoul does not have his homework. Raoul could have gotten a day's extension for being sick. The thought of serving detention is devastating to Raoul. James needs to choose to Follow the rule and have Raoul serve the detention, or Make an exception based on the fact that Raoul had been sick. Slide 21 Dilemma #1 Rules and Exceptions James should enforce the rule and require Raoul to serve detention: Raoul did not hand in his homework. The other children need to know that their teacher is fair and does not play favorites. They also need to know that if they choose to break a rule or policy, they are choosing to pay the con