Ethical Dilemma - A Conflict in Ethical Values

What is Ethical Dilemma? What is meant by Conflict in Ethical Values? How the Ethical Person Makes Decisions?

Definitions of Ethical Dilemma

Ethical Dilemma is when the person confronted with the dilemma has to weigh the conflicting moral values and choose one over another.

What is Ethical Dilemma? What is meant by Conflict in Ethical Values? How the Ethical Person Makes Decisions?

Kohlberg's classical hypothetical story tells that, an ethical dilemma, pitting one moral value against another, is distinguished from what Josephson calls a false ethical dilemma. In such equations, only one side has an ethical value on the other side is a non-ethical value. The clear choice for the ethical person is to reject the non-ethical value and act on the ethical value, to "choose ethics over expediency."

This is not to say that such choices are easy to the contrary. These choices often result in self-sacrifice- making sacrifices to do the right thing. To do nothing, to go along, might have an easier choice – but it is wrong. So ethical dilemma is right versus the right choice, and false ethical dilemma is right-versus-wrong.


How the Ethical Person Makes Decisions

  1. The person who decides in a given situation is called the moral agent
  2. To be an effective moral agent, you can't decide on a whim. Clear thinking is needed.
  3. Ultimately, your decision must be one that you can defend as having been rationally chosen by a caring individual

Josephson describes the complexity of the process:

  • Most decisions have to be made in the context of economic, professional, and social pressures, which can sometimes challenge our ethical goals and conceal or confuse the moral issues
  • In addition, making ethical choices is complex because, in many situations, there is a multitude of competing interests and values.
  • Other times, crucial facts are unknown or ambiguous. Since many actions are likely to benefit some people at the expense of others, the decision-maker must prioritize competing moral claims. It must be proficient at predicting the possible consequence of various choices.

With practice, we can be more confident and consistent in our decision-making. However, this does not mean that we will not make mistakes. Everyone does. We need to acknowledge the mistake, figure out how and why errors are made, and then try to do better ( Deni Elliott and Paul Martin)

Professionals who take their professions seriously stay conscious of the power that they have and the responsibility that they have to use that power judiciously. They will treat people fairly with respect and compassion. They will keep an open mind to alternatives.

A final check. If you think you have rationally decided, would you be willing to allow your decision process to be published on the front page or run in the first news segment on television? If you wince at the prospect, you ought to think again.

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Ethical Dilemma, Ethics, Dilemma, Sociology, Mass Communication, Choice, Values
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