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Tough Choices

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas

In addition to explaining how to tell right from wrong, Kidder (in his book How Good People Make Tough Choices) describes a process by which to resolve ethical dilemmas (those where a person has to choose between 2 rights). 

First you identify the values in conflict. He says that almost all can be seen as one of the following:

Truth versus Loyalty

Individual versus Community

Short-term versus Long-term

Justice versus Mercy

Next you determine the general question that needs to be answered in order to resolve this particular dilemma. He identifies 3 that he says have been used throughout human history:

What will help most people?

What should people do in an ideal world?

What would you want others to do if it were you?

Finally, you think through your answer to the question.

Your assignment is to imagine that you are taking a test for which you have studied very hard. When you get to the third question, your mind goes blank. You studied for this question, but you cannot remember the answer. In fact, you studied with the person sitting next to you, and you know that s/he knows the answer as well. Should you refresh your memory by looking at his/her paper? Analyze this problem using Kidder’s process.

1. What values are in conflict? (Pick from the 4 pairs listed above)

2. Write out any one of the three questions listed above that you prefer to answer.

3. Answer the question you chose, explaining why you answered as you did.

Proofread your work for complete sentences, conciseness, neatness, clarity, legibility, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Prepare a final draft on a separate sheet of paper. Please head it with your name, the class name, the assignment number, and the due date. Bring your rough draft with you to class. Use it to present your work orally if called on to do so.


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original web posting: Thursday, July 20, 2000
last modified: Sunday, August 01, 2004