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ETHICAL DILEMMAS How do we know what is right to do?

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Presentation on theme: "ETHICAL DILEMMAS How do we know what is right to do?"— Presentation transcript:

1 ETHICAL DILEMMAS How do we know what is right to do?

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

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

4 AGENDA  Ethical Systems  Case Studies  Ethical Dilemmas

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?

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

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

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

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?

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

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 one’s 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

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  Plato’s 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?

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 person’s virtue may be another person’s vice

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!

15 AGENDA  Ethical Systems  Case Studies  Ethical Dilemmas

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

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

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

19 AGENDA  Ethical Systems  Case Studies  Ethical Dilemmas

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.

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 consequences.  James should make an exception for Raoul: – He is a model student who does more work than asked to do, and the homework policy was established to encourage those students who would not do even the minimum required work without an incentive. – Is it fair to punish a student who works hard for forgetfulness?  After all, he could have said he did not finish his homework because he was sick and needed an extension – Is it fair to punish him for choosing to tell the truth?  Would punishing him now encourage him to lie in the future when a situation like this came up?

22 Dilemma #2 – Save Life or Let Die  Save someone’s life, or let him die? – Don, an emergency medical doctor, was driving on the highway when he saw a car stopping on the side of the road – Elderly driver at the wheel was slumped forward and seemingly unconscious. The driver's wife jumped out of the vehicle and waved her arms at him, seeking help – Don put in a call to emergency and pulled over to the breakdown lane – As Don was beginning to apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the man's wife confronted Don, saying, "No! Please don't try to revive him. He's had a serious heart condition for some time now, and he has a living will stating that he doesn't want to be resuscitated." – The woman was adamant, but did not have the living will with her. – Don rechecked the man's pulse: It was weak, but the man was alive. – What should Don do?

23 Dilemma #2 – Save Life or Let Die  Don should try to revive the elderly man – As an emergency medical doctor, Don is sworn to uphold the preservation of life, and, in a sense he is a representative of the community's interest in overseeing the welfare of its citizens. – Also, without seeing the proper papers, Don cannot be certain the man really would want him to do otherwise.  Don should honor the wife's demand that her husband's personal wishes be respected. – Don cannot really know the circumstances that have preceded this moment, and he ought not to second guess the process of consideration that has resulted in the "do not resuscitate" order. – The Golden Rule: Treat others only in ways that you're willing to be treated in the same exact situation  Put in the other man's position--and assuming that the living will has been drawn up--Don would probably want the "do not resuscitate" order to be upheld. After all, why else would one put together a living will?  Still, the living will itself is not at hand, and a third way out seems unlikely to appear.

24 Dilemma #4 – Crime and Punishment  In Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment – The main character plots and carries out the murder of an old woman who has a considerable amount of money in her apartment. – After killing her, he steals the money.  He argues that – She is a malicious old woman, petty, cantankerous and scheming, useless to herself and to society (which happens to be true), and her life causes no happiness to herself or to others; and – Her money if found after her death would only fall into the hands of chisellers anyway, whereas he would use it for his education.  Is this action justified?


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