Ethical Dilemma, essay and powerpoint

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Ethical Dilemma 1:

A newspaper columnist signs a contract with a newspaper chain. Several months later, she is offered a position with another newspaper chain, offering a higher salary. Because she would prefer making more money, she notifies the first chain that she is breaking her contract. The courts will decide the legality of her action, but what of the morality? Did the columnist behave ethically?


Ethical Dilemma 2:

An airline pilot receives his regular medical checkup. The doctor discovers that he has developed a heart murmur. The pilot only has a month to go before he is eligible for retirement. The doctor knows this and wonders whether, under these unusual circumstances, she is justified in withholding information from the company regarding the pilot’s condition.


Ethical Dilemma 3:

An office worker has had a record of frequent absence. He has used all his vacation and sick-leave days, and has frequently requested additional leave without pay. His supervisor and co-workers have expressed great frustration because his absenteeism has caused bottlenecks in paperwork, created low morale in the office, and required others to do his work in addition to their own. However, the individual believes he is entitled to take his earned time and additional time off without pay. Is he right?


Ethical Dilemma 4:

Rhonda enjoys socializing with fellow employees at work, but their discussions usually consist of gossiping about other people, including several of her friends. At first, Rhonda feels uncomfortable talking in this way about people she is close to; but then she decides it does no real harm, and she feels no remorse for joining in.

In conjunction with the readings, and within your teams, decide which ethical dilemma you believe is most problematic and why. In your teams, discuss the ideas of “good vs. evil,” “wrong vs. right,” and “ought/should be vs. what is.” Form the readings, discuss the ways in which Augustine and Aquinas would have solved the problem based on lecture and course reading material. In what ways do Augustine and Aquinas differ and why?

You may wish to meet throughout the week to share ideas. Create a report of your findings as individuals and as a team. The report should be approximately 2 pages accompanied by a 2-minute oral presentation, using VoiceThread or a PowerPoint narrated slide show. APA style

St. Augustine speaks: My name is St. Augustine, and I will try to help you understand
how to know when you are right (or good) and when you are wrong (or evil.) You
should be aware that failing to learn this will cause you to be doomed to an eternity of
everlasting death. When man bit into the apple, God saw that man was evil, and it was
then that man found that original sin would be the scourge of his life. Overcoming this
evil will require both reason and faith, and any life without both is a life of evil.
Aquinas responds: But Augustine, man has a conscience, and that conscience was a gift
from God. We are not all evil, and we have the capability and the reasoning ability to be
good. Man and woman can and do overcome temptations, and through faith in God, can
be good in the face of evil.
St. Augustine: Saint Aquinas, you are but a young pup. Your words sound as though
Aristotle is in the room with us. Can you not be more original? Although reason and faith
wisely go hand in hand, it is faith which must come first and last, and it is God which
gives the gift of reason to us.
Aquinas responds: Augustine, saint that you are, to buckle the backs of a man with guilt
and fear will cause the worst of the worst to come out. Let us unshackle these good
people from their guilt. Let us provide them with a view of the light which faith can give
them. Let them understand the path of right and wrong which we can light for them.
St. Augustine: Let me speak for us both, and then we shall rest in our peaceful graves.
Good students, it is only through the reflection of reason which God has provided you,
and the faith in the Lord that he knows the best path for us all that we can choose the
right path. Avoid the temptations of sexual promiscuity, although God knows I failed to
avoid these for my youth. My youthful transgressions are for all to read about in my
Confessions. Just remember that for all the fun of youth, it is during the mature years,
that your conscience will pain you and torture you. It is so better to rely on your faith and
avoid those temptations.
Aquinas finishes: Thank you for speaking, but I shall complete our task. Create within
yourselves a view for right and wrong, and stand fast by that throughout your life. In that
way, you can avoid the guilty conscience which plagued St. Augustine throughout his
life, and you can do what is right. If you fail in this, rely on God and the power of faith to
overcome your transgressions. Go now in peace and do good.
Discuss the ideas of “good vs. evil,” “wrong vs. right,” and “ought/should be vs. what is.”
Form the readings, discuss the ways in which Augustine and Aquinas would have
solved the problem based on lecture and course reading material. In what ways do
Augustine and Aquinas differ and why?
This will be an individual response. Choose 1 dilemma.
Ethical Dilemma 1: A newspaper columnist signs a contract with a newspaper chain.
Several months later, she is offered a position with another newspaper chain, offering a
higher salary. Because she would prefer making more money, she notifies the first
chain that she is breaking her contract. The courts will decide the legality of her action,
but what of the morality? Did the columnist behave ethically?
Ethical Dilemma 2: An airline pilot receives his regular medical checkup. The doctor
discovers that he has developed a heart murmur. The pilot only has a month to go
before he is eligible for retirement. The doctor knows this and wonders whether, under
these unusual circumstances, she is justified in withholding information from the
company regarding the pilot’s condition.
Ethical Dilemma 3: An office worker has had a record of frequent absence. He has
used all his vacation and sick-leave days, and has frequently requested additional leave
without pay. His supervisor and co-workers have expressed great frustration because
his absenteeism has caused bottlenecks in paperwork, created low morale in the office,
and required others to do his work in addition to their own. However, the individual
believes he is entitled to take his earned time and additional time off without pay. Is he
right?
Ethical Dilemma 4: Rhonda enjoys socializing with fellow employees at work, but their
discussions usually consist of gossiping about other people, including several of her
friends. At first, Rhonda feels uncomfortable talking in this way about people she is
close to; but then she decides it does no real harm, and she feels no remorse for joining
in.
In conjunction with the readings, and within your teams, decide which ethical dilemma
you believe is most problematic and why. In your teams, discuss the ideas of “good vs.
evil,” “wrong vs. right,” and “ought/should be vs. what is.” Form the readings, discuss
the ways in which Augustine and Aquinas would have solved the problem based on
lecture and course reading material. In what ways do Augustine and Aquinas differ and
why?
You may wish to meet throughout the week to share ideas. Create a report of your
findings as individuals and as a team. The report should be approximately 2 pages
accompanied by a 2-minute oral presentation, using VoiceThread or a PowerPoint
narrated slide show. APA
Extra readings if needed.
How Feelings Came to Be Emphasized
Two individuals are especially important in the development of moral relativism and are largely
responsible for its emphasis on feelings rather than reasoned judgment. About two centuries ago
French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, “What I feel is right is right, what I feel is
wrong is wrong.” The child, in Rousseau’s view, is inherently good; the only corrupting
influence is society with its artificial constraints. Whether or not today’s champions of feelings
are aware of the fact, their call to cast aside inhibitions, reject external authority, and follow one’s
urges is but an echo of Rousseau. That is certainly the case with the ethics education approach
known as values clarification. This system asserts that there is no universal, objective moral
standard and that the only norm is what each person decides to value. The job of the educator,
values clarification claims, is to encourage students to decide for themselves and then to affirm
and support whatever they choose. The teacher is to be completely nonjudgmental, withholding
all criticism of students’ choices—the clear implication being that in the area of values no one
can ever be mistaken.1
Also related to Rousseau, but more influential in modern thought than values clarification, is
humanistic psychology, especially the thought of Carl Rogers. In phrasing remarkably similar to
Rousseau’s, Rogers assigned feelings a central role in guiding behavior: “One of the basic things
which I was a long time in realizing, and which I am still learning, is that when an
activity feels as though it is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing. Put another way, I have
learned that my total organismic sensing of a situation is more trustworthy than my
intellect.”2 Rogers’ goal in therapy was to persuade the client not only to “listen to feelings which
he has always denied and repressed,” including feelings that have seemed “terrible” or
“abnormal” or “shameful,” but also to affirm those feelings. Rogers was convinced that the
therapist should be totally ac-cepting of whatever the client expressed and should show “an
outgoing positive feeling without reservations, without evaluations.”3
One becomes a person, Rogers claimed, by self-affirmation rather than self-evaluation or selfcriticism. The “only question that matters” for a healthy person, he maintained, is “Am I living in
a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?” Pleasing others or
meeting external, objective standards of behavior—such as the moral code of one’s society or
religion—has no role in Rogers’ process.4
Rogers’ impact on American thought, and on Western thought in general, has been profound.
Together with his associate, William Coulson, Rogers developed and successfully implemented a
plan to promote his value-free, nonjudgmental, nondirective approach in the teaching of both
psychological counseling and ethics. (Coulson later renounced the ap-proach, claiming that it
ruined lives and harmed society.) Subsequently, two generations of psychologists, guidance
counselors, student personnel staff in colleges, social workers, and even members of the clergy
were trained in Rogers’ method and proceeded in good faith to counsel millions of people to
follow their feelings. Rogers’ emphasis on feelings has been most enthusiastically embraced by
the entertainment industry, which has made it a central theme of movies and television programs.
In the space of a few decades, feelings have become the dominant ethical standard. As Allan
Bloom concluded, “Our desire…is now the last word, while in the past it was the questionable
and dangerous part of us.” As he explains, “choice” used to mean freedom to do what
one ought to do, what one determined was right to do, but “now, when we speak of the right to
choice, we mean that there are no necessary consequences, that disapproval is only prejudice and
guilt only a neurosis.”5
A number of psychologists have addressed this error. For example, William J. Doherty, a
therapist and professor of psychology, argues that “It is time for psychotherapists to stop trying
to talk people out of their moral sense.…I don’t believe that all moral beliefs are created equal.
The moral consensus of the world’s major religions around the Golden Rule—do unto others as
you would have others do unto you—is a far better guide to moral living than the reflexive
morality of self-interest in mainstream American society.”6
A Better Guide Is Needed
When we are thinking clearly and being honest with ourselves, we realize that there is a potential
in each of us for noble actions of high purpose and honor; but there is also a potential for great
mischief and wickedness. Each of us is capable of a wide range of deeds, some that would make
us proud if the whole world knew, and others that, if discovered by a single other person, would
cause us shame.
A man passing a department store late at night may have a sudden urge to smash the window and
steal the cashmere sports jacket he covets. A student may feel like spreading a lie about her
roommate to avenge a real or imagined wrong. A bank employee may have the desire to
embezzle a million dollars and depart for the South Seas. Any one of us, however placid our
nature, may on occasion experience an overwhelming urge to punch someone in the nose. Yet
each of these actions is at least of questionable rightness, despite the feelings and desires that
prompt them.
Similarly, a person walking alone on the shore of a lake may prefer to ignore the call for help
that comes from the water. A surgeon relaxing at home may prefer not to answer the call to
perform emergency surgery. The father who promised to take his children on a picnic may prefer
to play golf with his friends. A lawyer may prefer not to spend the necessary time preparing for
the defense of her client. In such situations, the answer “whatever the person prefers to do is
right to do” is hollow. Good sense suggests that the right action may be at odds with the
individual’s preference.
I recently had a personal experience that underscored this point. I was walking with my wife on
an exercise trail near our home. The sandy soil that bordered the pavement had eroded in places,
and a work crew had dug out the sand to a depth of about six inches in preparation for filling the
area with richer soil in which grass could take root. The area extended for about a quarter-mile
and the workmen had placed orange cones every twenty feet or so to alert walkers, skaters, and
cyclists to the danger. On the return part of our walk, we passed the area again and noticed a
teenage boy in front of us, methodically knocking over each cone as he passed it. When we
overtook the boy, I spoke to him. The conversation went like this:
I said, “I’m curious. Do you know why those cones were put there?”
“To warn people,” he mumbled.
“Do you realize that by knocking them over you increase the chance that someone might fall and
get hurt?”
• “Yeah.”
• “Then why are you doing it?”
• “Because I feel like it.”
Ironically, morality by feelings completely ignores other people’s feelings. Those who are acted
against surely have feelings, too; in the preceding cases, their feelings presumably run counter to
the feelings of those committing the actions. If the murder victims had been consulted, they
surely would have expressed a preference not to be so treated. Similarly, few people enjoy being
robbed, lied about, assaulted, or neglected in their time of need. To say that we should be free to
do as we wish without regard for others is to say that others should be free to do as they wish
without regard for us.* If such a rule were followed, the result would be social chaos.
•
•
•
Because our feelings, desires, and preferences can be either beneficial or harmful, noble or
ignoble, praiseworthy or damnable, and because they can be either in harmony or in conflict with
other people’s feelings, desires, and preferences, they obviously are not reliable criteria for moral
judgment or trustworthy guidelines for action. Feelings, desires, and preferences need to be
evaluated and judged. They need to be mea-sured against some impartial standard that will
reveal their quality. To make them the basis of our moral decisions is to ignore those needs and
to accept them uncritically as the measure of their own worth.
* The argument that people may do whatever they desire to do “as long as no one else is hurt”
may seem related, but it is really quite different. It has a social dimension (consideration for
others) in addition to a personal dimension (what one wants to do). Unfortunately, it begs the
question of whether we have a right to injure ourselves.
Sample Response to Inquiries
Here is a sample response to help you understand the kind of analysis and the form of response
appropriate for the inquiries that follow. (You need not agree with the particular viewpoint
expressed.) Note that the response expresses not just the writer’s moral judgment but also the
reasoning that underlies it.
Inquiry: Marian is a 55-year-old widow whose children no longer live at home. Lonely and
bored, Marian has sought escape in alcohol. Each night after work, she drinks four or five mixed
drinks, sometimes followed by a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. (Not infrequently, she
falls asleep on the couch and misses dinner.) When a well-meaning neighbor commented on her
drinking, Marian replied, “I feel that if I get up and go to work every day and don’t harm anyone,
there’s nothing wrong with my having a drink at night.” Is her feeling reasonable?
Sample Response: To begin with, five mixed drinks followed by a couple of glasses of wine is
considerably more than “a drink.” In addition, when she says she’s not hurting anyone, she’s
forgetting at least one person—herself. Using alcohol to cope with life is emotionally harmful,
and consuming that much alcohol is physically harmful. It is also difficult to imagine that she
performs her work well. Far from guiding her well, Marian’s feelings are victimizing her. The
moral thing for Marian to do, in my judgment, is to quit fooling herself and get help for her
drinking problem.

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