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Moral Dilemmas

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Very often a person faces moral dilemmas – situations with the circumstances that make it impossible to choose between two options, each of which has either favorable or unfavorable consequences. Furthermore, the problem is not that a person ought to do what he or she does not want to, but in following moral obligation which cannot be compelled simultaneously. In the given case, Jim’s dilemma is obvious: he has to choose between killing a man himself and letting all of them die.

Most of the people would find it difficult to choose whom to kill, because, first of all, it means becoming a murderer oneself. Moreover, it is hard to define the criteria by which to pick out those who should die and those who should continue to live. According to Kant, actions can be either moral or immoral. Helping people is generally considered being moral, and killing them, on the contrary, immoral. In the situation, if he chooses to kill a person, he commits an immoral act; if he does not – all will die, so one can see a conflict of duties – no matter what Jim does, people will die anyway.

The dilemma’s solution is more obvious according to the utilitarianism. Bentham and his followers focus, not on the nature of the act itself (as to some extend Aristotle does), but on the consequences it entails, or on its “utility”. So, the types of consequences which define the action as right or wrong are pertinent to human happiness. Utilitarianism argues that a dilemma could be resolved with the help of simple arithmetic. Therefore, the quantity of happiness can be defined by a so-called hedonic calculus, according to which one should choose the option providing the biggest number of happiness points and the smallest number of disappointing ones. In this case, Jim has to choose the person that is going to be killed. Despite the fact that it is going to cause him trouble, killing one person brings less pain than losing all of them.

In conclusion, an act is seen as right, or wrong depending on whether one considered the nature of the act or its consequences. Here, Jim can become a murderer, but as a result he will save many lives. If not, he can refuse to kill a man, thus not committing an immoral act directly, but this action will lead to the deaths of many others.

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