Ethical dilemmas: what they are, types and 5 examples that will make you think

Ethics and morality are constructs that regulate human behavior and allow their orientation to what is both individually (ethically) and collectively (morally) considered acceptable and positive. What is good and what is bad, what we should and should not do, and even the aspects that we hold dear and dear to our hearts are largely derived from our ethical system.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know what to do: choosing A or B has both negative and positive repercussions and the different values ​​that govern us clash. we are in front situations that pose ethical dilemmas.

    Part of moral philosophy

    It is understood by ethical dilemma to all that situation in which there is a conflict between the different values ​​of the person and the options for action available. These are situations in which a struggle will be generated between various values ​​and beliefs, there is no totally good solution and another totally bad option, having both positive and negative repercussions.

    Such dilemmas require a more or less deep reflection on the alternatives available to us, as well as on the value placed on the moral values ​​with which we govern ourselves. It will often be up to us to prioritize one or the other value, both of which are in conflict, to make a decision. They also let you see that things are neither white nor black. understand people who make decisions other than their own.

    The existence of real or possible real-life ethical dilemmas has generated an interesting branch of study focusing on our beliefs and values ​​and how they are handled.

    They allow us to see how we have thought about it and what elements we take into account when making a decision. In fact, ethical dilemmas are often used as a mechanism for educate in the use and management of emotions and values, To raise awareness of certain aspects or to generate debate and share points of view between people. They are also used in the workplace, especially in the selection of personnel.

      Types of ethical dilemmas

      The concept of ethical dilemma may seem clear, but the truth is, there is no one type. Depending on various criteria, one can meet different types of dilemmas, which can vary in their level of concretion, in the role of the subject to which it is presented or, if it is plausible. In this sense, some of the main types are:

      1. Hypothetical dilemma

      These are dilemmas that place the interviewee in a position where he is faced with a situation that is unlikely to occur in real life. These are not impossible phenomena, but it is something that the person has to face in their daily routine. It is not necessary that the person to whom the dilemma is posed be the protagonist, being able to ask what the character should do.

      2. The real dilemma

      In this case, the dilemma concerns a subject or situation close to the person being elevated, either because it refers to an event that you have experienced, or to something that can happen relatively easily in your daily life. Although they are generally less dramatic than the previous ones, they can be equally or more painful For this reason. The person facing the dilemma does not have to be the protagonist of the dilemma, able to ask what the character should do.

      3. Open a dilemma or solution

      Dilemmas posed as open or as a solution are all those dilemmas in which a situation arises and the circumstances surrounding it, without the protagonist of the story (who may or may not be the subject to which it is posed) having no action has yet been taken to remedy it. . It is intended that the person to whom this dilemma is suggested will choose how to proceed in this situation.

      4. Closed or analytical dilemma

      This type of dilemma is one in which the situation has already been resolved in one way or another, after making a decision and applying a series of specific behaviors. The person to whom the dilemma is posed he does not have to decide what is done, but to value the action of the protagonist.

      5. Completing the dilemmas

      So many dilemmas in which the informed person is informed of the consequences of each of the options that can be taken.

      6. Incomplete dilemmas

      In these dilemmas, the consequences of the decisions taken by the protagonist are not made explicit, depending to a large extent on the subject’s ability to imagine the pros and cons.

      Examples of ethical dilemmas

      As we have seen, there are very different ways of coming up with different kinds of ethical dilemmas, and there are thousands of options and being limited only by one’s own imagination. Below we will see some examples of ethical dilemmas (Some are very well known, some less) so you can see how they work.

      1. Heinz’s dilemma

      One of the most well-known ethical dilemmas is the Heinz dilemma, proposed by Kohlberg to analyze the level of moral development of children and adolescents (By inferring from the type of answer, the reason for the answer given, the level of obedience to the rules or the relative importance that their follow-up may have in some cases). This dilemma presents itself as follows:

      “Heinz’s wife suffers from cancer and is expected to die soon if nothing is done to save her. However, there is an experimental drug that doctors say may save her life. : a way Although this substance is expensive, the pharmacist in question charges a lot more money than it costs to produce it (it costs him $ 1,000 and charges him $ 5,000). can buy it, with the help and loan of money of all his knowledge, but he only manages to raise $ 2,500 out of the 5,000 that the product costs. Heinz goes to the pharmacist, who tells him that his wife dies and he asks her to sell him the drug at a higher price or let him pay half later, arguing that she must earn money with him as he was the one who discovered it That said, Heinz despairs and plans to steal the medicine. “What should I do?

        2. Tram dilemma

        The tram or train dilemma is another classic among ethical / moral dilemmas, created by Philippa Foot. In this dilemma, the following is offered:

        “A tram / train is traveling out of control and at full speed on a track, shortly before a switch change. There are five people attached to this track, who will die if the train / tram reaches them. You are in front of the needle change and you have the option to divert the vehicle to another route, but in which a person is tied up Turning the tram / train will result in the death of a person Do not do it, leave -the die 5. you do? “

        This dilemma has in addition to multiple variants, be able to greatly complicate the choice. For example, the choice may be that you can stop the tram, but that will derail it with a 50% chance that all of its occupants will die (and a 50% chance that everyone will be saved). Or you can look more for the emotional implication of the subject: suggest that one way there are five or more people who will die if nothing is done and the other, but that this is the couple, child / to, subject’s father / mother, brother or sister or parent. Or a child.

        3. The prisoner’s dilemma

        The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the dilemmas employed by John Nash to explain to them the motives and importance of decisions not only his own but also those of others to achieve certain results, and cooperation is necessary to achieve the best possible result. . Although it is more economical than ethical, it also has implications in this regard..

        The Prisoner’s Dilemma Proposes the Situation next:

        “Two criminal suspects are arrested and locked up, unable to communicate with each other, on suspicion of involvement in a bank robbery (or murder, depending on the version). The sentence for the crime is ten years but there is no tangible evidence of involvement in these acts; the police offer everyone the possibility of freeing themselves if they betray the other; if both confess to the crime, they will each serve six years of denying it and the other provides proof of his involvement, the informant will be released and the other will be sentenced to ten years in prison. If the two deny the facts, they will both remain in jail for a year. “

        In this case, more than morality we would talk about the consequences of each act for oneself and for the other and how the outcome depends not only on our performance but also on the alien.

        4. The noble thief

        This dilemma raises the following points:

        “We are seeing how a man robs a bank. However, we find that the thief does not keep the money, but gives it to an orphanage that does not have the resources to support the orphans who live there. report the theft., but if we do, it is likely that the money the orphanage can now use to feed and care for the children will have to return the stolen children. “

        On the one hand, the subject committed a crime, but on the other hand, he did it for a good cause. What to do? The dilemma can be complicated if you add, for example, that a person died during the bank robbery.

        5. The examination

        Sometimes the right decision is made in a very ambiguous situation where we do not know whether we have committed an offense or not. This ethical dilemma is based on such situations. This scenario elevates us:

        “You are in a college classroom taking an exam – all the students are seated in lined chairs, answering questions that need to be answered in writing. At one point, you spend several minutes trying to solve a question that resists you., And seeing that you are not having a bad time, you decide to rest for a few minutes, to see if you disconnect you can evoke better memories.With a lost gaze, you realize that you just saw the correct answer on the answer sheet of the person in front of you, considering that you probably will not be able to remember the correct answer, answer the question or are you leaving that field blank? “

        It’s a simple exam question, but … Do you have to make sure you have “copied”, even if it is not entirely voluntary? Or on the other hand, aren’t you responsible for your gaze being directed to the other person’s exam sheet?

        Sometimes we have to face them in real life too

        Some of the ethical dilemmas offered above are statements that may appear to be false or a hypothetical elaboration that we will never have to face in real life. But the truth is that in everyday life we ​​can come to having to face difficult decisions, With consequences or negative implications, let’s make the decision we make.

        For example, we may find that an acquaintance is performing an unethical act. We can also see a case of bullying, or a fight, in which we can intervene in different ways. We often encounter homeless people and we may be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to help them. Also at the professional level: A judge, for example, has to decide whether or not to send a person to prison, a doctor may be faced with the decision whether or not to artificially prolong a person’s life or who should or should not be operated on.

        We can observe professional embezzlement. And we can also face them even in personal life: we can for example be witnesses of infidelities and betrayals towards relatives or perpetrated by them, having the conflict to tell them or not.

        In conclusion, ethical dilemmas are an element of great interest which it tests our convictions and beliefs and they force us to think about what motivates us and how we organize and participate in our world. And it is not something abstract and foreign for us, but they can be part of our daily life.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Anscombe, GEM (1958). Modern moral philosophy. Philosophy. 33 (124): pages 1 to 19.
        • Benitez, L. (2009). Activities and resources to educate in values. Editorial PCC.
        • Fagothey, A. (2000). Law and reason. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books & Publishers.
        • MacIntyre, A. (1998). A Brief History of Ethics: A History of Moral Philosophy from the Homeric Age to the Twentieth Century. Routledge.
        • Paul, R .; Elder, L. (2006). The miniature guide to understanding the fundamentals of ethical reasoning. United States: Foundation for Critical Thinking Free Press.

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