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Moral dilemmas present complex situations that involve difficult decisions

Assignment Overview: In this philosophy assignment, you will delve into moral dilemmas and ethical theories. You will analyze different ethical perspectives and apply them to real-life situations, aiming to enhance your understanding of moral decision-making and ethical reasoning.

Assignment Sections:

Introduce the concept of moral dilemmas and their importance in philosophy.
State the research questions guiding your exploration.
Ethical Theories Overview:
Provide an overview of three major ethical theories: Deontology, Utilitarianism, and Virtue Ethics.
Explain the core principles and key proponents of each theory.
Application of Ethical Theories:
Analyze a real-life moral dilemma scenario, such as a medical ethics case, using each of the three ethical theories.
Discuss how each theory would approach the situation and arrive at a moral decision.
Ethical Relativism:
Discuss the concept of ethical relativism and its implications for moral decision-making.
Evaluate its strengths and weaknesses as an ethical framework.
Personal Moral Dilemma:
Share a personal moral dilemma or one you have observed in your life.
Analyze this dilemma using one of the three ethical theories discussed earlier.
Case Study:
Choose a well-known ethical dilemma or case study (e.g., trolley problem, organ transplantation) and discuss it in detail.
Analyze the case study using at least two of the ethical theories, explaining their differing perspectives.
Summarize your findings and discuss the strengths and limitations of each ethical theory.
Reflect on how the study of moral dilemmas and ethical theories can inform moral decision-making in your own life.
Cite your sources using appropriate citation style (APA or MLA).
Formatting and Length:

The assignment should be typed and double-spaced.
Aim for approximately 1000-1200 words.
Submission Guidelines:

Follow your instructor’s guidelines for submission.
This assignment will deepen your understanding of ethical theories and their application to real-life moral dilemmas, encouraging thoughtful ethical reasoning and reflection.

Moral dilemmas present complex situations that involve difficult decisions between options that both have positive and negative consequences. These types of scenarios are common in real life and force us to grapple with questions of right and wrong. This paper will explore how different ethical theories can help analyze moral dilemmas and guide moral decision-making. Specifically, it will address the following research questions: How do deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics approach moral dilemmas differently? And which theory provides the most comprehensive framework for ethical reasoning and decision-making?
Ethical Theories Overview
There are three major normative ethical theories that are relevant to analyzing moral dilemmas: deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics. Deontology focuses on duties and rules, holding that the morality of an action depends on whether it fulfills our obligations (Beauchamp, 2008). Immanuel Kant is a key proponent who argued that people possess intrinsic worth and should be treated as ends rather than means. Utilitarianism, developed by philosophers like John Stuart Mill, is a consequentialist theory that judges the morality of actions based on their consequences. It aims to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number by weighing costs and benefits (Mill, 1863). Virtue ethics, drawing from Aristotle, focuses on moral character development and cultivating good habits. It emphasizes virtues like compassion, honesty, and courage that guide moral behavior (Aristotle, trans. 1999).
Application of Ethical Theories
A medical ethics case that poses a moral dilemma is physician-assisted suicide. From a deontological view, the duty to preserve life would prohibit assisting suicide since it directly ends a life. However, utilitarianism could arrive at a different conclusion by considering the costs and benefits. If a terminally ill patient is suffering greatly with no chance of recovery, allowing physician-assisted suicide may maximize overall well-being by relieving suffering. Virtue ethics would examine the compassionate choice in this situation given the patient’s circumstances and aim to honor their values and dignity at life’s end (Gert et al., 2006).
Ethical Relativism
Another perspective relevant to moral dilemmas is ethical relativism. This view holds that morality is determined by cultural or societal standards rather than universal truths (Harman & Thomson, 1996). While it challenges objective moral claims, relativism risks moral ambiguity and disagreement when different cultures have conflicting views. For instance, honor killings are accepted in some societies but condemned as unethical in others. Relativism makes it difficult to resolve such moral disagreements across cultural boundaries.
Personal Moral Dilemma

As an example, I once faced a dilemma about whether to report unsafe driving by a friend. My friend had been drinking and wanted me to get in the car. I cared about my friend but also had a duty to prevent putting others at risk on the road. A virtue ethics approach helped me consider acting with courage and care for others rather than just loyalty to a friend. I found another way to get my friend home safely while still fulfilling my ethical obligations.
Case Study: Trolley Problem
The trolley problem presents a classic moral dilemma that highlights differences between deontology and utilitarianism (Foot, 1967). In this scenario, a runaway trolley will kill five people on the tracks ahead unless you flip a switch diverting it down a side track, where it will kill one person instead. Deontology would prohibit actively killing the one person, while utilitarianism could justify sacrificing one to save the greater number. Both theories provide rationales for their opposing conclusions in this thought experiment.
In addressing complex real-world moral dilemmas, no single ethical theory provides a perfect solution. Each offers valuable perspectives, but they also have limitations. Deontology focuses heavily on rules and duties but fails to consider consequences. Utilitarianism risks consequentialism run amok without regard for rights and character. Virtue ethics provides a useful framework but lacks specificity. Overall, carefully examining dilemmas through multiple ethical lenses, as well as one’s own moral intuitions and virtues, seems most likely to arrive at a well-reasoned decision. Further study of ethics cultivates both understanding of philosophical theories and wise judgment in navigating life’s difficult choices.

Aristotle. (trans. 1999). Nicomachean ethics. (T. Irwin, Trans.) Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.
Beauchamp, T. L. (2008). The principle of beneficence in applied ethics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.

Foot, P. (1967). The problem of abortion and the doctrine of the double effect. Oxford Review, 5, 5-15.
Gert, B., Culver, C. M., & Clouser, K. D. (2006). Bioethics: A systematic approach. Oxford University Press.
Harman, G., & Thomson, J. J. (1996). Moral relativism and moral objectivity. Oxford: Blackwell.
Mill, J. S. (1863). Utilitarianism. London: Parker, Son, and Bourn.