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Real-life Moral Dilemma: A Reflective Exercise


A. INSTRUCTIONS: The following questionnaire is a reflective exercise designed to increase your insight into: 1) your personal ethical values, 2) the moral reasoning process, and 3) the complexity and difficulty of real-life moral conflicts. Read the questions carefully a couple of times, but donít answer them immediately. Take 2-3 days to reflect on them, formulate your responses, and consolidate your recollection of the moral conflict in question. If necessary, refresh your memory by consulting with any other individuals who were participants in the situation.

All of us have experienced situations in our life that required a choice between competing courses of action. In particular, a moral dilemma occurs when we are faced with a situation in which mutually exclusive (the choice of one option excludes the other alternative) choices or courses of action are experienced as equally binding (right, good, obligatory). As such, a moral dilemma is not the moral conflict or anguish we undergo when faced with a choice between the morally right and wrong, however we conceive these to be. Rather, as in the example of the Sartre student, it occurs when we are torn or divided between two courses of action that are both moral, but only one course can be chosen. Consequently, a moral dilemma forces us to deliberate about which action(s) is morally superior or preferable, even though both choices make a claim on our conscience. In a moral dilemma one is unsure of what he or she should do because the alternatives appear equally moral. Accordingly, answer the questions below on a moral dilemma youíve experienced in the past or present.

1.  Briefly describe the situation you found yourself in.
2.  What was the moral conflict for you in this specific situation? Explain why you think it was a moral conflict for you.
3.  In deliberating about what to do, what factors or issues did you consider? Why did you consider these particular factors?
4.  What did you finally decide and do? What was the basis of your decision?
5.  What was the eventual outcome of your action(s)? How did the situation turn out? What happened?
6.  Thinking back upon it now, do you think you did the right thing? Why/why not?
7.  In retrospect, what did you learn from the dilemma you described?
8.  Finally, what does morality in general mean to you? And how did the described situation constitute a moral dilemma for you?