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  • Writer's pictureClare Lloyd

2. Five Minute Thinks: How Do We Make Moral Decisions?

Watch the video here:

Jude can solve his Rubik’s cube because he uses an algorithm (a set or rules or a fixed sequence of operations that enable him to solve a problem)

He follows different algorithms depending on which stage of the process he is at, but the algorithms are the same every time he does it, regardless of how the cube has been messed up. These algorithms help him to solve any Rubik’s cube problem.

Is it possible to do the same when we are faced with a moral problem?

Your Task:

Rules or no rules? Should there be rules that govern the following behaviour? Why or why not?

· Stealing?

· Killing another person?

· Lying?

There are several different types of algorithms or moral theories that we could follow to help us to make moral decisions. Here are a few: Divine Command Theory – This is a deontological theory. We read God’s commands and it is our duty to obey them no matter what the situation. Natural Law – This is a deontological theory. We can use reason to work out fixed rules that it is then our duty to follow, no matter what the situation. Situation Ethics – This is a teleological theory. We must trust that the most moral thing to do is to be loving. Then we work out what is the most loving outcome to aim for in that individual situation. Utilitarianism – This is a teleological theory. We must try and aim for the outcome that will make the most people happy. We must work it out every time because it could be different.

Your Task:

Look at the following situations. What do you think the answers to these problems would be if we applied the principles in the boxes above? Would it change the answers at all?

· Jenny’s Dad is dying. He is in a lot of pain and has begged Jenny to help him. Jenny could give him something to help him die more quickly. Should she kill him?

· John is angry. His girlfriend and his best friend cheated on him. He gets into a fight with his friend and kills him. Should he be punished?

· Jamila’s agrees to hide her neighbour who is in danger from a violent relative. That relative knocks on Jamila’s door and asks if the neighbour is there. Should Jamila lie?

· Jasper wants to stock up on extra bread during the food shortages. The shops say he is only allowed to buy one loaf. Should he lie and say he is shopping for elderly neighbours so he can have more for himself?

Would it be better if we scrapped these approaches and just did what we felt like at the time?

What kinds of problems do you think we would face if we did this?

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