MORAL DILEMMAS: INTERTWINED BEHAVIOURS & WAYS TO NAVIGATE — CHAPTER — 01
Morality is defined as the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour (Oxford Dictionary). Effective ethics instruction is about more than distributing a list of moral guidelines; it requires educating learners on how to navigate their own moral decision-making. Learners learn to search for and evaluate their assumptions, to excavate the reasons behind those assumptions, to examine without prejudice another’s opinion and to make a thoughtful decision with confidence.
What Is Ethics:
Ethics provides a set of standards for behaviour that helps us decide how we ought to act in a range of situations. In a sense, ethics is all about making choices, and about providing reasons why we should make these choices.
Ethics is sometimes conflated or confused with other ways of making choices, including religion, law or morality. Many religions promote ethical decision-making but do not always address the full range of ethical choices that we face. Religions may also advocate or prohibit certain behaviours which may not be considered the proper domain of ethics. Many people use the terms morality and ethics interchangeably. Others reserve morality for the state of virtue while seeing ethics as a code that enables morality. Another way to think about the relationship between ethics and morality is to see ethics as providing a rational basis for morality, that is, ethics provides good reasons for why something is moral.
Traditional Interpretations Of Ethics:
There are numerous ways to think about right and wrong actions or good and bad character. The field of ethics is traditionally divided into three areas:
Three Broad Types of Ethical Theory:
Ethical theories are often broadly divided into three types. Each of these three broad categories contains varieties of approaches to ethics, some of which share characteristics across the categories.
The Utilitarian Approach: Utilitarianism is one of the most common approaches to making ethical decisions, especially decisions with consequences that concern large groups of people, in part because it instructs us to weigh the different amounts of good and bad that will be produced by our action. This conforms to our feeling that some good and some bad will necessarily be the result of our action and that the best action will be that which provides the most good or does the least harm, or produces the greatest balance of good over harm.
The Egoistic Approach: One variation of the utilitarian approach is known as ethical egoism, or the ethics of self- interest. In this approach, an individual often uses utilitarian calculation to produce the greatest amount of good for him or herself. The Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand (1905–1982), who, in the book The Virtue of Selfishness (1964), argues that self-interest is a prerequisite to self-respect and to respect for others.
The Common Good Approach: The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) argued that the best society should be guided by the general will of the people which would then produce what is best for the people as a whole. This approach to ethics underscores the networked aspects of society and emphasizes respect and compassion for others, especially those who are more vulnerable.
Non Consequentialist Theories
The Duty-Based Approach: The ethical action is one taken from duty, that is, it is done precisely because it is our obligation to perform the action. Ethical obligations are the same for all rational creatures (they are universal), and knowledge of what these obligations entail is arrived at by discovering rules of behaviour that are not contradicted by reason.
The Rights Approach: This approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity. The list of ethical rights is debated; many now argue that animals and other non-humans such as robots also have rights.
The Fairness or Justice Approach: The American philosopher John Rawls argued that just ethical principles are those that would be chosen by free and rational people in an initial situation of equality. This is considered fair or just because it provides a procedure for what counts as a fair action, and does not concern itself with the consequences of those actions. Fairness of starting point is the principle for what is considered just.
The Divine Command Approach: As its name suggests, this approach sees what is right as the same as what the Devine Beings command, and ethical standards are the creation of their will. Because Devine Beings are seen as omnipotent and possessed of free will, they could change what is now considered ethical, and they are not bound by any standard of right or wrong short of logical contradiction.
Agent Centred Theories
The Virtue Approach: One long-standing ethical principle argues that ethical actions should be consistent with ideal human virtues. Because virtue ethics is concerned with the entirety of a person’s life, it takes the process of education and training seriously, and emphasizes the importance of role models to our understanding of how to engage in ethical deliberation.
The Feminist Approach: This approach emphasizes the importance of the experiences of women and other marginalized groups to ethical deliberation. The principle of care as a legitimately primary ethical concern, often in opposition to the seemingly cold and impersonal justice approach. Like virtue ethics, feminist ethics concerned with the totality of human life and how this life comes to influence the way we make ethical decisions.
Interpretation of Moral/ Ethical Dilemmas
In philosophy, ethical dilemmas, also called ethical paradoxes or moral dilemmas, are situations in which an agent stands under two (or more) conflicting moral requirements, none of which overrides the other. A closely related definition characterizes ethical dilemmas as situations in which every available choice is wrong. The term is also used in a wider sense in everyday language to refer to ethical conflicts that may be resolvable, to psychologically difficult choices or to other types of difficult ethical problems.
The crucial features of a moral dilemma are these: the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions. What is common to the cases in a moral dilemma (or ethical dilemma) is conflict. The agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what he/she does, he/she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that he/she ought to do).
When one of the conflicting requirements overrides the other, we have a conflict but not a genuine moral dilemma. So, in order to have a genuine moral dilemma it must also be true that neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden. What makes these questions dilemmas is an individual’s definition of right and wrong or good and bad. scenarios.
Some ways in which such ethical dilemmas may be addressed are:
- **To be continued in Chapter 02 (Moral Dilemma Questions & Common Situations, Approaches For Ethical Decision-Making, Importance of Understanding Moral Dilemmas, Framework for Making Moral/ Ethical Decisions)
Content Curated By: Dr Shoury Kuttappa