Making Ethical Decisions. What is an Ethical Dilemma Essay Example


Have you ever been in a situation where you had to made a split second decision but didn’t know what the right thing to do was? In Michael Sandel's article Doing the Right Thing from the book Uncharted Territories, the question of what is right and what is wrong is explored as Sandel shines a light on what logic and reasoning we use to determine our ethics. On the other hand, Paul Thagard explains through his article Ethical Thinking Should be Rational AND Emotional how our reasoning for our ethics shouldn’t be limited to just logic and rationality but should include our emotion as well. While Sandel uses antithesis, both articles use logos to show how there are so many factors that can influence our process of making ethical decisions.

To show how making ethical decisions can be a difficult process, Sandel incorporates “The Trolley Problem,” an ethical thought experiment, in his article Doing the Right Thing. This thought experiment has you put yourself in the place of a conductor on a runaway trolley car on which the breaks don’t work. On the track ahead of you, there are five workers that in a matter of seconds you will hit. However, there is a side track with only one worker that you could turn onto instead, killing the lone worker. The author then asks you to consider another scenario: you are now standing on a bridge witnessing the runaway trolley car head toward the five workers. There is a large man standing next to you, and if you push him off the bridge he would stop the trolley from hitting the other five workers. Although one case seems more right to do than the other, both are done with the same good intention but just carried out in different ways. This concept raises in intresting question: Sandel asks the reader, “Why does the principle that seems right in the first case--sacrifice one life to save five--seem wrong in the second?” (488). Sandel uses the rhetorical strategy logos through this ethical thought experiment by presenting a theoretical story composed of facts and suggestions. 

In the article Thinking Should be Rational AND Emotional, Thagard uses logos to strengthen his argument: ethical decision-making should be done not just with logic but with emotion as well. Thagard responds to the premise that emotions can be irrational when making ethical decisions be pointing out that, “Some emotions are beautifully rational, such as love for people who add great value to our lives” (1). Logos is presented here when Thagard refers to a common emotion that nearly everyone has felt, love for those we value. If a friend or family member adds great value to your life, it is completely rational and logical to love them in return. Thagard uses more logos when he presents the scientific fact that, “The brain is capable of simultaneously performing both cognitive [evaluation] and bodily perception, and emotional consciousness result from this combination” (1). Thagard’s argument is further strengthened when he uses logic to prove his point.

In addition to using logos in the article Doing the Right Thing from the book Uncharted Territories, Sandel incorporates antithesis to his argument while presenting another factor that may assist our ethical decision-making process: the aim or intention behind the decision. Antithesis is present in Sandel’s argument when he considers that, “Maybe the moral difference [of different ethical decisions for a certain event] lies not in the effect on the victims… but in the intention of the person making the decision” (488). Sandel uses antithesis to promote the point that the outcome of an event doesn’t determine the ethical decision you should make, because in most cases the events’ outcome is unpredictable. Rather, it’s the intention of the person making the judgment that should be taken into consideration when an ethical decision needs to be made. 

In sum, there are so many factors that may influence our process of ethical decision making. This is proven by logos from the articles Doing the Right Thing (which also incorporates antithesis) and Thinking Should be Rational AND Emotional. Michael Sandel and Paul Thagard both wrote deep, philosophically challenging articles, keeping us connected by using logos to discover what is right and what is wrong. Deuteronomy 6:18 says, “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.”

 

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