Moral dilemma is a situation where people have to choose between two equally unpleasant alternatives. Moral dilemma is worse than anything, because whichever option people choose, someone or something will suffer. In a moral dilemma, people have to decide on the morally correct course of action, not just the one they would prefer. In the video Harvard University’s Justice with Michael Sandel, he discusses a lot of situations that deal with moral dilemmas. However, he focuses more on the first scenario which involves the choice between the death of 1 person and the deaths of 5 people.
The second scenario involves pushing a man off a bridge to save 5 people below. A result in both scenarios would be that a person would be conflicted about taking a life to save five others. People always think about their own personal gain first whether it involves money, property or something else. Therefore, these dilemmas were not easy to solve, somebody has to sacrifice something. If we were to ask any number of people the question: “What is the right thing for me to do? ” they would have different answer according to their own beliefs.
The beliefs that people value are the structures in which they live by. “Morals are personal beliefs, and ethics are those beliefs and rules, which are set by a larger group of people for the greater good” (Butts & Karen, 2013). Ethics are in place to prevent endangerment of others wellbeing. Although one person can hold their own personal morals and values above others, society will always expect someone to conduct themselves in an ethical manner according to their rules and standards. Despite the fact that people have a set of beliefs, they may violate them in different situations.
A person who is deemed innocent and honorable based on what their society believes are the right standards, are thought to be the ones that determine natural justice. Natural justice is known to be right or wrong. There were many examples specified in Michael Sandel’s Harvard video but he discusses more on the following topics. First, given an abstract choice between the death of 1 person and the deaths of 5 people, almost everyone will choose the 1 person. However, given a more specific scenario in which you have to literally, physically kill the 1 person in order to save the other 5, most people will switch preferences.
For example, they would rather be “indirectly” responsible for 10 deaths, than “directly” responsible for 1. One of the neuroscientist has mentioned that there are two separate, challenging structures in the brain which cause the phenomenon: one is unemotional, in which “accountant” structure that weighs moral outcomes in concrete terms (1 death or 10), and another one is emotional structure which is simply averse to doing any direct harm to anyone (Pojman, 1992). In the second situation, the tricky one of course is whether or not you should push a man off a bridge to save 5 people below.
It is tricky simply because the part you play in this scenario is much more direct, significant and “hands on”. It seems more personal. The end result may be exactly the same (1 dies so that five may live) but I think the real issues here are the emotional and psychological consequences that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. I mean, if you can imagine how much it could be harm you in future, especially if new information came to light after the fact that may have played a part in your initial reasoning had you known of it then (Dedek, 1972).
In the situation which a person push a man off the bridge to save the other five, another factor must be taken into account. In reality, if you consider there are 7 lives to in each scenario rather than 6. Where you have to include your own. You are not pushing mas off the bridge to save 5 lives below, and don’t want to kill anyone else, you are also saving yourself. Not from death of course, but from something terrible things. In a very real sense you have decided that your life is more important than the lives of 5 other people. There is also another way to solve this problem which I would like to mention.
What if, instead of pushing the man off the bridge, you climbed your self over the railing and pulled him over with you. In this scenario you are demonstrating your willingness to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others and it gives you something of a moral high ground from which to demand that others do the same. Somehow it seems less morally reprehensible to force someone to die with you for a greater cause than to force someone to die while you stand there and watch for the same greater cause. Even it has been said that sacrificing 2 lives to save 5 when you only had to sacrifice one is not a good result. Dedek, 1972). In conclusion, sometimes in life there is a time coming where people have to make a decision about what is right and wrong and what to do. Especially, in the case of parents who have to make decisions for their children and teach them how to choose between right and wrong. It is said by Mahatma Gandhi that “Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth” ( Datta, 1972).
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