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Mar 3, 2013

Ethical Dilemmas and Their Resolutions

A morally dilemmatic situation is whenever possible courses of action breach an otherwise morally binding principle. There is a conflict between a person’s perception concerning the rightness (goodness) or wrongness (badness) of the consequences of an action. A moral agent has to choose between or among alternative actions (resolutions). He cannot choose both or all of the resolutions because that is morally impermissible. A person is in a dilemmatic situation because a decision is mandated; thus, a crisis of conscience, feelings of anguish, indecisiveness or helplessness (McConnell, 2010). There is also a moral unbearability of the consequences of any one of the chosen alternatives.
Teachers often use moral dilemmas to teach students about moral education (Kohlberg, 1966). Evangelista (2005) found out that students’ moral orientation to various moral dilemmas is greatly influenced by the kind of moral dilemmas they are dealing with rather than by personal characteristics (that is, gender and age), social background and spirituality. However, a person's economic situation, cultural background and moral competence strongly affect his/her manner of resolving a moral dilemma.
Bagnoli (2000) divulged that moral dilemmas can pose a threat to a person’s integrity, but could be counteracted by practical resolutions. He added that moral dilemmas are moral conflicts in which the moral agent is morally bound by overriding and competing reasons. The moral agent is trapped because there is no morally overriding justification for him/her to act or not given a particular scenario. Swedene (2005) proposed that a moral agent who acts for the best in a moral dilemma ought to be encouraged with self-conscious emotions such as sadness and grief rather than by negative self-assessing emotions.

            Resolutions to Hypothetical Moral Dilemmas

            Moral researchers such as Kohlberg use hypothetical (fictional) moral dilemmas that can be viewed as lacking emotionality, motivation, significance and reality for adolescents to solve. Evangelista (2004), on the other hand, used not only Kohlberg’s Justice-Based Ethics but also Gilligan’s Care-Based Ethics. He found out that most college students use both justice and care perspectives in dealing with various dilemmas (that is, they can be justice-oriented in some dilemmas and care-oriented in other dilemmas).

            Resolutions to Real-Life Moral Dilemmas

            Real-life moral dilemmas are poignant and have profound effect to people who had experienced them first-hand. Take for instance Gilligan’s (1982) real-life moral dilemmas as unusable for every person because they are too personalized. In the words of Skoe, et al. (2002), studying real-life moral dilemmas pose a problem for being individually significant and different in various conventional, moral or even practical concerns. 

            Steps in Resolving Ethical Dilemmas

The steps in resolving moral dilemmas as given below:
1.      Get the story straight;
2.      Compare the dilemma to a specific moral rule, principle or idea;
3.      Determine if the rule, principle or idea applies to your problem and can help develop a course of action for you to pursue;
4.      Identify who has the power and control of the situation;
5.      Identify what is in your control and what is not;
6.      Identify your resources (parent, teacher, friends, etc.). Ask yourself if you need more information, clarification, or ideas from them who have had a similar problem;
7.      Make a list of possible actions and their positive and negative outcomes;
8.      Make a plan that you can defend ethically; and,
9.      Take action and evaluate your plan as you proceed (ASHA, 2008).


            According to Skoe, et al. (2002), the emotions evoked using hypothetical and true-to-life moral dilemmas vary because of the latter’s greater relevance to a person. Nonetheless, hypothetical dilemmas have greater significance than realistic ones because they are more effective for democratic and moral learning and for their compelling nature (Lind, 2011).  In the case of faculty acuity and actual student commitment of academic dishonesty, for instance, teachers and students alike should resolve conflicts in perception for better resolution (Symaco, 2004).


ASHA. Ethics and IDEA : a guide for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who provide services under IDEA. Rockville, Madison: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2008.
Bagnoli, C. "Moral dilemmas and the limits of ethical theory." LED Idizioni, 2000.
Evangelista, F. Moral reasoning of college students : implications for moral education. Quezon City: (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). University of the Philippines, 2004.
Evangelista, F. "Moral Reasoning of College Students." LEAPS: Miriam College Faculty Research Journal 25, no. 1 (2005).
Gilligan, C. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Kohlberg, L. "Moral education in the schools: A developmental view." The School Review 74, no. 1 (1966): 1-30.
Lind, G. The Konstanz Method of Moral Dilemma Discussion (KMDD). Vers. Revised Edition. George Lind Online. 2011.
McConnell, T. Moral Dilemmas. Edited by E. Zalta. 2010.
Skoe, E., N. Eisenberg, and A. Cumberland. "The Role of reported emotion in real-life and hypothetical moral dilemmas." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28 (2002): 962 – 973.
Swedene, J. "Feeling better about moral dilemmas." Journal of Moral Education 34, no. 1 (2005).
Symaco, L. Faculty and student perception of academic dishonesty. Quezon City: (Unpublished Thesis). University of the Philippines, 2004.

Eilvu Gimatria Ethical Dilemmas and Their Resolutions


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