Ethical Dilemma (Author’s name) (Institutional Affiliation) Abstract This research paper seeks to resolve a particular case of an ethical dilemma. This has been necessitated by the fact that ethical dilemmas are a recurrent part of life. Moreover, ethical dilemmas have become a key point of argument in the field of ethics and interestingly, philosophy as well (Garsten & Hernes, 2009). As an inividual, I find myself facing moral dilemma situation quite frequently which makes the exploration of this subject a fascinating intrigue.
This exhaustive research thus attempts to integrate all the possible actions that can be undertaken to lead towards the understanding of ethical dilemma. Methodologies used to accomplish this include the three stage ethical dilemma solving process that duly applies two main approaches. These approaches are consequentialist and deontological which have been widely applied to give step by step details on how to handle the given ethical dilemma. The article dissects on subsequent decision making after thorough strive to balance between what is morally acceptable within a person’s surroundings and self interests entrenched in a human being.
A thorough discussion on the particular viewpoints of ethical dilemma has unearthed the common result of individuals getting torn between self morals and societal expectations.. Finally, the research concludes that there is a need to evaluate decisions based on viewpoints arising from a given instance of an ethical dilemma. Introduction Ethical dilemmas, also referred to as moral dilemmas, have been a recurring problem for ethical practitioners and theorists as far back as time immemorial.
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An ethical dilemma is a situation whereby self moral obligations and social ethical precepts conflict in such a way that any possible solution to the dilemma is not tolerable morally. Better yet, an ethical dilemma is a scenario whereby guiding ethical principles, say written rules or religious books, cannot dictate which course of action is morally right or wrong. An ethical dilemma is also regarded to as an ethical paradox since in the field of moral philosophy, paradox usually has a pivotal role in arguments, debates and discussions.
Given such a case, personal ethics and societal guidelines can give no satisfactory result for the individual with the responsibility of choosing. Ethical dilemmas have an assumption that the chooser will stick to societal norms, such as religious teachings or codes of law, thus making the decision ethically impossible. In fight-or-flight response, any animal will react only in its immediate bodily self-interests when faced with perceived bodily harm with a limited ability to come up with other alternatives. However, unlike animals, people have complex social relationships that are hard to ignore (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2010).
These relationships often lead to conflicts among individuals. Such conflicts may be settled by another approach that has strong social foundation. That is why societies instituted criminal justice systems along with ethical traditions and religious principles to mitigate such deep conflicts. Discussion For example, you have a best friend who has confessed a terrible secret to you. At the moment the individual is married to a wife with two children. He has a loving family, a decent life and is a good citizen. However 14 years earlier he had killed a woman.
He has also confessed to you that a homeless person was accused of the murder: but died before his trial and punishment. Nothing good can come from this man’s confession. His family will suffer and no one is at risk of being mistaken as the murderer. What would you advise him to do? In this situation, the person in question is a good friend. This means that individual ethics will dictate that so as to safeguard his freedom; the secret should continue to be a closely guarded affair not to be revealed to any other person. This effectively translates to hiding his guilt as well.
On the other hand, societal expectations based on religion or laid down laws, demand that the matter is grave and thus the need for informing law enforcement agencies so that relevant action can be taken. This bodes well with the fact no one is above the law, be they a dear friend or otherwise. Here, the dilemma is between the two morals (personal ethics and societal guidelines) whereby whichever decision is to be undertaken will have intolerable repercussions. Of worth noting is the fact that these consequences, be they positive or negative, will have either a ong term or short run impact; especially where best friends are involved like in this case. Solving ethical dilemmas is a delicate balancing act between serving personal vested interests and meeting social expectations. The key goal when solving these moral paradoxes should be the intention of achieving greater good over lesser evil, simply meaning gaining greater good out of any given case. Ideally, ethical systems or mechanisms should allow for tradeoffs or priorities of decisions i. e. the greater good is more desirable even though the action undertaken is morally wrong.
Generally, there are two main approaches used by ethical philosophers in troubleshooting ethical dilemmas: namely the consequentalist approach and the deontological approach. The first approach deals with the resulting consequences of actions taken while the other is concerned with the practical actions themselves. The former school of thought simply argues ‘no harm, no foul’ i. e. if no harm is done then no wrong is committed (Harding, 2010). The latter insists that some actions are simply wrong. Philosophers have debated the relative advantages of these approaches for ages.
However, for the sole purpose of obtaining help on solving ethical dilemmas, we take a look at the above mentioned approaches as the most effective strategies for analyzing and resolving problems with moral paradoxes. Having said that, we revert to our case where we attempt to explain it in easy to understand step by step arguments. Step One - Analyze the Consequences of Action Since this friend broke the law by murdering some woman 14 years ago, the law was broken hence the assumption of obedience or full compliance with the law (Pollock, 2012).
You should consider the outcome of the action of reporting the incident to the authorities, both positive and negative. First you should evaluate on the beneficiary of this action. Who will it help? The notable beneficiaries of you reporting to the police will be the killed woman and the dead homeless person who ought to get some justice. It is worth noting this justice will do them no good as they are both deceased. Other beneficiaries could be social members but this is also at the risk of severing links with your close friend and other relations.
Next in line you need to evaluate as to whom this move will hurt the most. This best friend will face jail time, lose his family which is dependent on him and experience stigma through social repulsion since he will be considered a criminal while the relationship between the two of you will be severely dented meaning you also lose him as a friend. A small quantity of ‘high quality’ good can override a bigger amount of ‘lower quality’ good (Garber, 2008). A high quality good is like having good health while a lower quality good can be like having the latest flashy car.
By the same token, a little quantity of ‘high quality’ harm e. g. the pain produced if you betray someone’s trust on a very critical issue can outweigh a larger amount of ‘lower quality’ pain. With this in mind, we can only conclude that the friend has more to lose than any gain derived from reporting to law enforcement agencies. Another crucial element to consider is both the long-term and short-term repercussions of your intended action. This is more so relevant due to the fact the consequences may linger long enough yet the individuals in question are close friends.
Principles like integrity, equity, respect for people’s rights and dignity ought to be weighed while assessing your next course of action. This entire step applies the consequentalist approach. Step Two - Analyze the Actions In this step, it is important to completely ignore consequences of actions and focus exclusively on the actions themselves. Assess how your actions compare or contrast with moral principles like integrity, respecting others rights, equity, respecting people’s dignity, fairness, and recognizing the susceptibility of individuals.
Do the actions that you consider taking cross the line, in terms of acceptable decency to an important ethical principle? If there is any contradiction between the principles or between the rights of different individuals involved, then there should be a way to view one principle more overly significant than the other. In this step we apply the deontological approach. Step Three – Decision Making This step involves merging both parts of your earlier two steps analyzed which helps to make an informed decision.
Now that you know your values and you have a model with which to apply them; the remaining piece is to follow a systematic process to resolve the moral dilemma on the basis of which of your options produces the best combination of maximum benefits and least harm. After making this crucial decision, there is a need to act on your decision and accept responsibility for it. You should be ready to defend the choice of action you have taken to not only yourself but others who are concerned. You are solely responsible for this action. Conclusion
It goes without saying that ethical dilemmas are a part of our everyday lives and so the need to constantly have a way of diffusing them. How to best handle difficult moral and ethical options is never easy especially when any choice deviates from the societal norms and ethical standards by which we have governed our whole lives. But since the underlying premise remains unchanged regardless of the specifics, the three-step approach proves effective not only to us but even to the early philosophers who first posed ethical dilemma questions.
References Garber, P. R. (2008). The Ethical Dilemma. Harvard: Amherst. Garsten, C. , & Hernes, T. (2009). Ethical Dilemmas in Management. New York: Routledge. Harding, C. G. (2010). Moral dilemmas and ethical reasoning. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Pollock, J. M. (2012). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Zastrow, C. , & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2010). Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.
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