10 Most Fascinating Moral Dilemmas

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Everyone faces moral dilemmas; some moral dilemmas have been used to scare people, others to teach a message, and some we face every day without really regarding them as moral dilemmas.

The first five dilemmas deal with life or death situations. They are not as common as some of the other ones, but they are commonly used as examples to teach and preach.

10. Marriage and divorce


Two years ago you went through a terrible divorce. You have nothing to show for the pain you went through, but a four year old that you only get to see every other weekend. You’ve moved on to a nice handsome man who really loves you. He’s been married twice; both marriages failed, and he ended up broken hearted each time. The two of you have a great and healthy relationship; he gets along with your daughter wonderfully. You two decided to move in together, and rarely seen without one another. After awhile, you find out that you’re pregnant. Obviously, you want to stay with him, but what about his family? His family is extremely religious, and when they find out that you’re pregnant, they expect the two of you to be married as soon as possible. Both of you have been so hurt in the past that you’re reluctant for this to happen. Do you agree to marry him, for the sake of your child, and for the sake of his family? Do you stay “living in sin” with him, because you’re afraid of what has happened in the past, and want to take things more slowly this time around? There are other similar situations like this, finding out you’re pregnant with someone you’re not married to. Do you stay with the person? Do you marry them? What if it was a one night stand? What if you cannot afford a baby on your own?

9. Cheating


You have two mutual friends who are dating. They are both very close to you, and you knew them separately before they even knew each other. You find out that he cheated on her. It was a one night stand, and he has not talked to the girl since it actually happened. He has been faithful excluding that one time. Also, it’s been a few months since it happened. You know that your friend is the type of girl that would stay with him; she would forgive him if it was only once. Do you support his decision not to tell her, because it won’t happen again and it will only cause her unnecessary hurt? Do you keep your mouth shut because it is none of your business and you want to stay out of it? Do you want him to tell her what happened, because she deserves to know the truth? Or do you take it upon yourself to tell her, even though that may mean the end of their relationship or the end of your friendship with him? What if it is you that has cheated on your significant other? Do you tell them right away? Do you wait, knowing that it won’t happen again? Do you keep it from them because you know that they’ll leave you if you tell them what happened? Do you keep it from them because you know they WON’T leave you?

8. Teenage Party


Underage kids are having a party. They are all about to graduate high school, and one of the student’s parent’s are out of town. Every kid brings a little beer, wine, or liquor that they have sneaked out of their parent’s liquor cabinet. With all of the alcohol together, it really starts to add up. The party is fun at first, until one boy drinks too much alcohol. He is hyperventilating and throwing up profusely. He can’t stop. All of the other kids can tell he is really sick, not just someone who throws up after a bit of drinking. None of the other kids are in the condition to drive him to the hospital. Do the kids call 911, and risk getting in trouble with the police, in order to save their friend, or do they risk driving him to the emergency room, even though they are drunk, if it means they might not get in trouble? Do they leave him at the emergency room and go away, as to not get into trouble? Does someone call their parents and risk getting in trouble with parents instead of the police? What if the kids aren’t sure whether of not the boy is really sick, or just passed out?

7. Airplane


You are on a plane that is crashing. When the emergency lights come on and the oxygen masks come down, no oxygen mask comes down in front of the person sitting next to you. Do you give up your oxygen mask for this person, or do you let them fend for themselves? Another option is possibly to share, to take turns, but this could result in both people dying. For some people, it might depend on who is sitting next to them. If it was a loved one, especially someone’s child, the answer might be clearer. What if it were a stranger? Would you be as eager to give up your life for that of someone you don’t know?

6. Lifeboat


There are only so many lifeboats, and more people than lifeboats on a sinking ship. Generally, people believe women and children should go first in emergency situations like these when lives are at stake. What about babies and the elderly? The elderly have lived long lives; some would consider their lives complete. Babies have so much of life left to live, should the elderly give up their spots on the lifeboats for the babies? The chances of a baby surviving on a life boat out at sea, however, are not very good. Should the elderly fight for their spot on the boat, because they have a better chance of surviving the wait until they are rescued at sea?

5. Premarital sex


A lesser known play by William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, a law is decreed that people cannot engage in premarital sex. When a local woman, Juliet, becomes pregnant, Juliet and Claudio (her boyfriend), are put in prison. Claudio is given a death sentence by the new leader in town, Angelo. As he begs and pleads for his life and tries to find a way out of his punishment, Angelo takes an interest in Claudio’s sister, Isabella. Angelo wants to make a deal with Claudio, if he can sleep with Isabella, and in return Claudio will be set free. Not only is this a moral dilemma because Isabella does not want Angelo, but also because she is a nun. She is not allowed to ever have sex. If she violates her law of chastity she will no longer be a member of the covenant. Once she finds out about the deal the moral dilemma becomes hers to bear. Does she save her brother’s life and forever give up her life as a nun, and not only that but degrade herself and have sex with a man she despises? Or does she tell her brother he will have to find another way out of it. Mariana helps her plan a “bed trick”, and offers to stand in and sleep with the leader in her place. Eventually the Duke comes back into town to “right” all of the wrongs that have gone on in his absence. He was able to see everything firsthand, because he posed as a friar instead of leaving town.

4. Bridge


A man runs a drawbridge. His job is to lower and raise the draw bridge when the boats come through. One winter night, he decides to bring his son to work with him. His son is young and very curious about how things work. In an unfortunate turn of events, the son becomes a bit to curious and is exploring the gears of the drawbridge, when suddenly the horn sounds letting the man know a boat is coming, and he must raise the bridge. He realizes his son is caught in the gears by his shirt, but the boat is fast approaching and it is full of people. If the man raises the bridge, the gears will crush his son. If the man does not raise the bridge, the people on the boat will crash into it, and no doubt some of them will die in the icy river. Does the man risk the lives of the people on the boat to save his son? Or does he risk crushing his own son to keep all of the people on the boat safe?

3. Pregnant woman and baby

A man’s wife is pregnant, her health goes south quickly. The doctor’s tell the man he must choose between his wife and his unborn child. He must sign a paper allowing the doctors to abort his baby and save his wife, or he must take his chances, and possibly both the wife and the baby could die. In one instance the husband wants desperately to abort the baby, because in his reasoning, he only has one wife, and without her he can’t have any other babies. If they abort this baby, they can always have another one. The doctors wants to save both the wife and the baby, and risk accidentally killing both. The husband refuses to sign papers allowing his baby to be aborted. He decides to take his chances, and the doctor’s were able to save both his wife and his new baby girl.

2. Infidelity


In what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s saddest plays, Othello comes in contact with a devastating moral dilemma. Iago has strategically placed evidence incriminating Othello’s wife, Desdemona, and Othello believes she is having an affair. Iago has been causing problems for everyone throughout the entire play in order to achieve power. Othello has a tough moral dilemma ruled and fueled by strong and violent emotions. Does he confront Desdemona about this affair and believe Iago? Or does he believe Desdemona when she says it isn’t true? Unfortunately Othello decides that he does believe Iago, and at the price of Desdemona’s life. He smothers her, just moments before Emilia comes in and tells the truth and exposes Iago. Othello does not kill Iago for this aweful crime. Othello, feels the guilt of what he has done and he commits suicide. Like Sophie’s Choice, when the choices made during moral dilemmas turn out with an unhappy ending, there are severe prices to pay.

1. Choose Between your children


In the novel by William Styron, Sophie’s Choice, and the film by the same name, Sophie Zawistowska was a Polish prisoner during World War II. As a reward for not being Jewish, the Nazis told her she could keep one of her children. With only seconds to decide, Sophie did not know which child to choose. How could she choose one child and leave the other one to impending death? How could she not choose and risk both of her children’s lives? In a split second decision, with Nazi soldiers barking at her to decide, she chose to save her daughter and not her son. Her reasoning? Her son was older and stronger and had a better chance of making it through the Nazi Concentration Camps. She never heard from her son again. Eventually having to make such a decision led her to commit suicide.