Pick a moral dilemma that interests you and that you want to learn more about. By “moral dilemma” I mean a choice that a society or individual must make between two or more mutually incompatible courses of action or policy (so that they cannot choose both) which requires sacrificing some good in order to achieve some other good. A genuine moral dilemma is not merely something about which people disagree (people disagreed about slavery but one side was simply wrong). A genuine moral dilemma is a situation in which values conflict, so that in order to maximize one value we must not maximize another value.
Describe your moral dilemma. Define the relevant terms. What is at stake? Is this dilemma a relatively recent phenomenon that has been caused by some change in society or for some other reason, or is it a dilemma that has been with us for a long time? What groups are invested in the outcome of the dilemma? What facts relevant to evaluating the dilemma do you already know? If you know almost nothing about the background to your dilemma, do a bit of Wikipedia research before writing this section.
Most importantly, describe the values in conflict and explain how they conflict. Why can’t we maximize both values?
Then, briefly sketch two possible solutions to your dilemma. Each possible solution should make a different sacrifice in value. For example, if you chose the abortion debate, one solution could sacrifice the value of the life of the fetus. This would likely be a solution that allows unfettered access to abortion. Another solution could sacrifice the value of the autonomy of the mother. This solution would presumably involve strong restrictions on abortion. I’m not asking you to advocate for either of these solutions, just to describe what they might be.
Some things to consider: Can you see an easy compromise to your dilemma? If so, you should consider picking a different dilemma, since an easy solution suggests the conflict in values does not go very deep. Also, be sure to think hard about what conflict in values creates the dilemma. If the only reason for the conflict is that people in group A and people in group B don’t like each other, then this is a social/political conflict, not a moral one.
Is the moral dilemma adequately described? Possibly including:
· Important terms defined.
· Background facts (historical, social, political, economic, etc.).
· Possible proposed solutions.
· Relevant interest groups.
Are the clashing values identified and explained?
· What are the clashing values?
· How are they opposed to each other in the context of the dilemma? In other words, why must we sacrifice one to maximize the other? Why can’t we just have both?
Are two proposed solutions described? Do they sacrifice different values?