Moral Development

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A moral or ethical dilemma is a problem in which one is compelled to make a forced choice (i.e., among two and only two possibilities) in which both possible cases are equally balanced in moral terms. In such an example, every possible action might require violating one deeply held moral...

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A moral or ethical dilemma is a problem in which one is compelled to make a forced choice (i.e., among two and only two possibilities) in which both possible cases are equally balanced in moral terms. In such an example, every possible action might require violating one deeply held moral conviction in order to uphold another conviction.

A typical example of this is the "trolley problem," in which you can save the lives of five people threatened by a runaway train by pushing someone off a bridge in front of the trolley (or flipping a switch that will cause the train to hit a single person). In this case, there are two competing moral imperatives. First, most people would agree that one has a moral obligation to save five lives, but also, most people would agree that murdering an innocent person is wrong. However, as the problem in constructed, one must make a decision between either committing murder or letting five people die due to inaction. Other examples might include decisions about organ transplantation or similar issues concerning allocation of rare resources necessary to survival.

The key to writing about genuine moral dilemmas is that one cannot create easy solutions to make the dilemmas go away. In the trolley problem, for example, if one were to suggesting pushing some luggage on the track rather than a person, one would not be "solving" the dilemma but rather turning the paper into one about train safety rather than about a moral dilemma. Instead, the most important element in writing a successful paper about a moral dilemma is to engage deeply with the ethical presumptions that the dilemma calls into question.

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A moral dilemma can be described as a situation in which a choice has to be made, but the choices require an action that goes again the principles with which we have been raised. Therefore, one is placed in a position where a decision has to be made on whether making the choice, or leaving it altogether. However, the question arises from the premise that morality is not palpable, yet, holds strongly to our entire thought processes and choice-making. Hence, the dilemma is created. 

To write about a moral dilemma, determine first what is the belief or principle that is going to be challenged. Think about different possible standpoints that you may have taken, or may have to take, sometime in your life: Are you against or in favor of abortion? Think about animal rights, freedom of religion, or on what is your take on creationism. Further extrapolate your real feeling about some behaviors: should pregnant women be allowed to smoke if they want to? Should smoking marijuana become legal? Is it OK to drink alcohol?

Then, think about a circumstance where you would have to end up doing something, saying something, or choosing something that will go directly against your standpoint. That would be your dilemma. The format for writing against or in favor of something would be the argumentative, or persuasive format. 

An example of a moral dilemma can also be as simple as making a choice to tell the truth about something, or not.

For instance, should you tell a teacher, instructor, or Principal whether  someone is using drugs on campus, or at school? Even if your first answer is "Yes", think about it, will you REALLY go through the process of getting exposed, exposing another student, filling out a report, becoming known at school for telling on someone, and then getting someone expelled from school? That is a moral dilemma.

Another moral dilemma: Let's suppose that you find out that your father is being unfaithful with your mother. You are told to always tell the truth. However, this truth will potentially destroy your family, will make your mother sad, and will bring a lot of issues. If you want to do what you feel is your moral obligation, then you tell the truth. However, if you find it hard to do, as a result of the consequences that will arise from telling the truth, that would be your moral dilemma.

Therefore, a moral dilemma is anything that interferes with your idiosyncrasy and the systems of believe with which you are raised. It can be as simple as making an everyday choice, or as complicated as having to take a stand in a major, social, issue. 

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