Moral Questions, Why They Matter

Elena Bai, News Editor

Today is the birthday of two of history’s greatest and most well-known philosophers: Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche. Both of these philosophers have had wide reaching impacts in not only philosophy, but education theory and politics, and have helped to define the thought of their time. It is in honor of these philosophers that I present some moral dilemmas for you to consider. 


1: On the way home, Bob accidentally hits and kills his dog, Spot, with his car. He decides that the dog would have lost its life for nothing if he did not do anything with it. So, he decides to cook the dog into a stew that he has for dinner. If, to him, the dog meat is the same as any other and he does not tell anyone else about this incident, is what he did wrong?
It is commonly accepted that morality cannot exist in a vacuum. Thus, a person cannot commit an immoral act when there is no one else to witness it. However, most of us will have a very visceral reaction to the thought of eating any type of pet. This forces us to question whether our natural judgement is as accurate a moral judgement as we think it is. 


2:James has Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, which comes with many symptoms, the most notable of which is that he is constantly drawn to self-mutilation. This commonly manifests itself in nail-biting or lip-chewing. One day, he decides that the incessant thoughts forcing him to hurt himself make his life unbearable and asks you, his doctor, to give him a lethal injection. Would you do it?
This is one of the major problems in the field of medical ethics. Is it ever okay to help someone commit suicide? In the world of philosophy, there are many different answers to this question and how you justify yours can say a lot about your morals and values. 

3: Every night for 3 months now, you have been dreaming of a person who promises to make life on Earth as good as it can possibly be by eradicating problems such as hunger and environmental issues. However, you must sacrifice 3 people for this to happen. Would you comply with the person’s wishes?
This question asks whether it is okay to  value a certain person’s life over others and whether utility (the most gain) is always the best form of moral analysis. Ultimately, is it more important to attain the perfect world or to allow three people to live?

4: In the middle of the night, you hear your doorbell ringing. As it is quite late and you are too lazy to get up from bed, you try to ignore it, but the ringing doesn’t stop. So, you get up and drag yourself to the door, only to be faced with a man holding a knife. He asks you where your friend lives, informing you that he seeks revenge for something that happened years ago. Would you tell him?
The answer to this question depends on how strict a person’s moral code is.  A person with a strict set of rules including a rule against lying would be forced to tell the truth while another may value a friend’s trust or even life above maintaining their own truthfulness.

There are no definite answers to these questions, but your individual answers to these questions can reveal much about your morals and ethics. Furthermore, these dilemmas are only exaggerated instances of real-life events. Questions such as “Can something be considered immoral if it does not affect outside people?” and “Is it okay to lie in certain situations?” pop up in our day-to-day lives, so thinking about these often outrageous-sounding questions can help us deal with them more easily when we are faced with them.