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Moral Dilemmas
bob What is a dilemma?

The online dictionary tells us a dilemma can be described as a situation requiring a choice between undesirable alternatives.

We are faced with dilemmas every day. For example, if you were backing your car out of your driveway and accidentally dented someone else's vehicle, would you tell them about the accident?

If you confess to having caused the accident, you may have to pay to have your neighbor's car repaired -- and you will have to admit to driving incompetently. On the other hand, if you simply drive away without telling anyone, you may feel badly and, if it is discovered that you caused the accident, you could potentially be in more trouble than if you had just fessed up when it happened.

Assuming that you aren't a sociopath, most people will agree that deciding what to do in a dilemma is difficult.

Dilemmas in which we need to choose between something which may not appear to be in our own self interest (i.e.: admitting fault and paying to have someone else's car repaired) and an alternative (driving away and pretending we didn't do it), many of us will be tempted to simply take the choice that seems to favor our own interests more.

So, when faced with a dilemma, why should we choose anything other than that which favors our own self interest? If we damaged our neighbor's car in an accident and knew we could get away with it, why wouldn't we just drive away every time?

Some people would choose to go tell their neighbor the truth because they fear the legal consequences.

Other people worry about punishment in the afterlife.

In 1943 a psychologist named Abraham Maslow proposed in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation that human motivations were really quite complicated; he ranked motivations in a hierarchy he called 'The Pyramid of Needs' --- and different people had different motivations for different reasons.

Personally, I'd like to hope that people would decide to 'do the right thing' out of respect and regard for others.

Copyright 2007 Moral Relativism Ltd.

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