Moral Dilemmas and Thought Experiments (page1)

List of Ethical Dilemmas and Thought Experiments:

Previous 1 2 3 Next

1. Jane has a strong intuition that the recently released killer, Socrates, is going to murder someone on the West side of town. Logically speaking, all the evidence points to the contrary. In violation of police policy, Jane investigates and saves a family from a brutal death. Firstly, is Jane's action moral? Secondly, should she be considered moral if judged solely based on that action? Thirdly, should society praise Jane for her decision?

2. Louie discovers a watch on the ground, and it begins to glow strangely. He is transported to the future for a short period, and he returns to the original time with the watch absent. Disturbingly, he learned that in exactly one week, he is supposedly going to commit rape. A child is born, and she grows up to end world hunger. Presuming he can avoid the crime, should he do so?

3. A group of survivors are stranded on an island. Uncertain as to whether they will receive help, they have resorted to cannibalism. A mother and her child are amongst the survivors and fear drives the mob into considering the child as a potential victim. Agreeing to a random drawing, the mother's daughter is selected. Instead, the mother stabs a random person with a knife she has hidden away. Was her action moral? If not, would it make a difference if the random drawing was done without her consent, presuming both her and the daughter would participate in the consumption of the loser?

4. A local hunter is known for brutalizing an endangered species in an area known for having a corrupt government. As an animal rights activist, Saul concludes that upwards of one hundred animals will die if the hunter is not stopped, putting the species at even greater risk. Is Saul justified in his decision to kill the hunter, and would he be justified if the species were not endangered?

5. A couple travels back in time and decides not to engage in the activities that led up to the birth of their child. Is this situation ethically worrying? Why or why not?

6. Local scientists find two unknown species, and they have no reason to presume either is more valuable ethically or in its potential benefits to mankind. Seeing that one species is absolutely adorable and about to be killed by the other, should you shoot the attacking creature? It is not adorable.

7. Driving across a bridge, you see three hitchhikers in the cold. Knowing no one is likely to come back for hours but wary of strangers, do you have an ethical obligation to provide aid?

8. Already in an irritated mood, a local volunteer approaches you to join their cause of helping the sick. You've evaluated the quality of the average person and determined that they make the world worse off. However, they are theoretically capable (though highly unlikely to) of becoming productive members of an ethical society. Is the possibility of usefulness enough to justify aiding them? Should they be aided? If not based on possibility, what supports coming to their aid?

9. From a moral standpoint, the majority of societies intellectuals conclude that impoverished nation X is filled with people whose lives are not worth living. They stay alive, rather, for a variety of cultural, social, and other forces that serve as a "cruel web" that forces them to wait for their death. It's astronomically doubtful that everyone or even half the people will be helped. Given a limited amount of resources, you can kill a hundred people or save one. The harm you spare those 100, if applied to the saved individual, would be capable of making their life horrible almost 20 times over. Should you invest in bullets and murder as a charitable tactic?

10. The majority of your society has become sheep who follow the words of mass media and popular figures, who themselves are often victims of indoctrination and illogical beliefs. Knowing these people have had their rationality fundamentally impaired, is removing their voting rights a justifiable action?

11. A child is being raised according to the views of their parents. As it turns out, these beliefs are both undoubtedly false and potentially harmful to society. Is there an ethical obligation to inform the child concerning the truth of the matter, or do parents have a moral license to misinform their children?

12. Is it morally justifiable for private clubs to deny service to people of a particular race where the policy is openly admitted as being due to "the racial immorality and inferiority" of said race. Should this be illegal?

13. If #12 is unethical, do religious institutions denying service to homosexuals deserve to be categorized in the same manner. Should it be illegal to deny them service marriage services?

14. Given that homosexuality is genetic and appears to cause no social harm, just about any child can turn out homosexual. Since certain religious groups claim that homosexuality is a sin, are parents who teach this engaging in child endangerment? The idea being that is that the psychological impact such religious views may have if their child is gay is, in fact, dangerous and harmful.

15. An old women is in a coma and will die within the hour. Her family is dead, and rowdy teens steal the body and toss it off a cliff. Consequently, money is saved as a result of their unusual tendencies. What should be the ethical evaluation of such circumstances?

Previous 1 2 3 Next

Moral Dilemmas and Thought Experiments (page2)

List of Ethical Dilemmas and Thought Experiments, page 2:

16. Visiting an impoverished nation while on vacation, you come across a small child and witness them steal something from a wealthy tourist. Do you ignore it? Lecture the child privately? Chase them down? What would Jesus do?

17. You have proof your Father is guilty of sexual assault. Currently, you depend on him for financial support. Do you report the crime?

18. A strange child asks you if you believe in Santa Clause. Do you have a moral obligation to lie?

19. You are being sexually assaulted and although you have a gun, the attacker does not seem phased and continues. You know the location well and police will arrive any minute and be able to help. Do you kill the attacker? Does it matter if you know them to have a tragic background that inevitably made them unable to stop becoming the monster you see before you?

20. A rare quantum anomaly occurs and someone is born who can miraculously heal hundreds of ill children a day. However, they are unable to do this unless they physically assault you on a daily basis. Do you let this occur? Would society be justified in allowing it to happen even if you objected?

21. With a background in evolutionary biology, you have been assigned with the important task of categorizing new species on the planet Norrichuck. You spot two species that both look beautiful, but you realize one is a predator and the other is the prey. If the prey is in danger, should you come to its defense? If not, why?

22. The newest scientific breakthrough is about to occur. A machine will inward upon itself and the energies involved will create a portal into the past. Billions of dollars have went into the project, and a mother believes her child is stuck in the machine. While her claim is unlikely, the child would be sent with a team of scientists were her claim true. Presuming they decide to help him, he can return in ten years. Should they stop the machine? What if they knew the child was in there?

23. Society has developed a strange custom where individuals play the lottery in unique ways. With growing food shortages and widespread poverty, people are putting tickets into a machine. The more tickets one places in the machine, the more likely they are to win. However, as tickets are added to the machine, a higher percentage of the population is killed. They are the "soylent green" prize that the winner receives. Most people who do not win will eventually die of starvation. How many tickets should one put in the lottery, if any?

24. You have discovered that you alone have the ability to travel through time. For simplicities sake, there is only one "real" time-line. You can experience time periods where Shakespeare was a fisherman, but whatever time period you are currently participating in has "become" the real world. Many injustices have occurred throughout history. Should you stop them? Why or why not? And does any suffering entailed by your changes still matter if you change the world an additional time?

25. A tree falls in the forest and falls on a young Hitler. Do you help him?

26. You have a banana, but you don't like bananas. There is a monkey who likes bananas and a crocodile that likes monkeys but not bananas. The crocodile appears to be quite desperate for food as there are Arby's boxes floating around. Do you save the monkey then let him go with the banana, knowing you are costing the crocodile a meal? Alternatively, do you save the monkey, give him the banana, then throw him to the crocodile? Or do you do something else entirely?

27. It turns out all this time, every step you take reaches a microscopic civilization under the earth, one of even greater sophisticated than our own. They live in peace and have nice foliage. Do you kill yourself or continue on your evil path of destruction? Or is it evil at all? Ponder that.

28. There is a spider on the neck of someone you care about. You remove it, and they ask what you were doing. They are terrified of spiders and would likely become rather scared and mortified. Do you tell the truth?

29. You see Glenn Beck swimming in the ocean, apparently with his boat capsized. There is a high shark population, but they are usually quite calm. Do you help him? Do you leave him there? Do you "accidentally" drop a bucket of bloody fish guts into the water and pretend you couldn't hear because you were listening to your favorite Lady Gaga song (hopefully you fall into the water too, if that's the case). What would you do?

30. On vacation, you're mistaken for a famous celebrity. This happens all the time, but now you have the opportunity to play an exciting game of "table tennis" with a beautiful young women. Knowing she only wants to play "table tennis" because she thinks you're a celebrity, can you justify lying to her? Why or why not? If not, could the law justify charging you with a sex-crime because she consented to relations with who she thought was the celebrity rather than you?

Moral Dilemmas and Thought Experiments (page3)

List of Ethical Dilemmas and Thought Experiments, page 3:

Previous 1 2 3 Next

31. You are stranded on an island and stumble upon a village. They won't let you join them or help you in any way. You can find the things necessary to survive such as food, water and shelter. However, you notice they have a large amount of puppies that could entertain you. Can you entertain the puppies at night despite their refusal to let you see them during the day?

32. A nearby couple is violating public decency laws. You are opposed to the laws and can leave them alone without being legally punished. However, if you tell them a police officer comes at 8:00 (in a few minutes), you can be implicated in a crime. Knowing you'd be violating law you find only slightly unjust (it's not like a law preventing women from going to school), are you justified in informing them? Should you aid them if there is a small risk involved?

33. There is perfect visibility as you approach an intersection. You know the area is not busy and can clearly observe no other vehicles in any direction. The light is red. Should you ignore it and drive through it anyway?

34. You are falsely accused of a crime by an officer of the law. Knowing this, you calmly explain the situation. Nonetheless, they become extremely violent with you. Given your background, you know you can easily subdue them. Should you allow yourself to be assaulted? What factors are relevant here?

35. A beloved family pet is in danger, and time is a factor. Equally at risk is a family with two small children. Presuming you can only save the pet or the family, what would you do? Is that action ethical, morally excusable but unethical, or is there something else going on entirely?

36. As a famous children's author, you are contemplating on how to end the last book in a series. Since the beginning, you have intended to kill off the main character. Knowing this will make millions of people upset, including small children, is this acceptable?

37. Adopted by different parents, you discover your current girlfriend is actually your sister. Given that you are both infertile, is the relationship acceptable? What if you were not?

38. Even if abortion is a fundamental right, consider the case of an early-term pregnancy. The couple had been trying to conceive a child for years, but doctors said it was impossible. Statistically, they were the rare case of a successful pregnancy. A murderer kills the women, and the fetus is also destroyed. Should they be charged with an additional crime knowing that had it not been for their actions, the couple would have had the child?

39. Scientists discover that people are like machines more than some thought. Essentially, people can be unplugged. Mentally speaking, they are killed and brought back to life. A homeless man agrees to be frozen for a day, and no one knows he is gone. The scientists all have heart attacks and no one knows about the man. If his life was going to be miserable, presumably, has something bad occurred? Has he been wronged in some way?

40. A devoutly religious women is terminally ill. Euthanasia has now been legalized, and she is experiencing intense pain. This will continue for weeks until her death. Her religion believes euthanasia is a sin, but it can be done without her knowledge, sparing her suffering. If her beliefs are known to be wrong, is it justifiable to do this?

41. The local Scientologist group has started praying to a pile of dirt as a deity. Accidentally, you kick your soccer ball into said pile. It has now been tainted by an infidel. Should you tell them, put the pile back together, do nothing, or do something else?

42. A mighty squirrel is ravaging the lands with its magical tail. It turns out that the squirrel is a scientifically amazing creature, and scientists want it caught alive for research purposes. The benefits the squirrel could provide are unclear, but it has a magical tails so they figure it must be useful. Knowing a live capture will potentially result in more deaths, both civilian and military, should the project be attempted?

43.There is a fifty dollar bill in your pocket, and you see a child starving nearby. If you refuse to help them, are they justified in stealing from you? And are you justified in trying to get the money back? Why or why not?

44. You can save one and only one group from death. The first group contains two people, both age twenty. The second group contains three people, both age eighty. Which group should you save, if any? What if the two young people were going to die if you didn't kill the other group - would you do that?

45. A friend's child was brutally attacked, and you find out she has killed the attacker. The police were likely to convict the attacker, but she took justice into her own hands. He would likely have served jail time for assault. If you know you won't be legally implicated, should you lie and say your friend was with you the entire time the murder occurred?

Previous 1 2 3 Next