Moral Dilemmas: Part 2

This week, the second in our two-parter on moral dilemmas. In this one, find questions about Short term vs Long term, and Individual vs Community. 

Last week’s email covered Justice vs Mercy and Truth vs Loyalty, and also contained advice on facilitation. Catch up here.

Dilemma 1: Short term vs Long term

Matteo recently graduated from a degree in computer engineering. He got a job as a coder but he doesn’t earn that much money. His friends tell him he should move out of his mum’s house so he can live with them. This would be a lot of fun, but he’d have to pay rent. His mum says he should live with her so that he can save up enough money to buy a house one day. 

Matteo’s big sister thinks he should move out because their mum does everything for him and she thinks he isn’t growing up and learning how to care for himself.

Matteo likes living with his mum because he has spare cash to spend on holidays or new technology.

What should Matteo do?
Out of the reasons children come up with, which are short-term reasons and which are long-term reasons?
Which reason is the most important?
How do you decide whether to preference the short term or the long term?

Dilemma 2: Individual vs Community

A plane crashed close to a deserted island. Some passengers survived and swam to safety. 

The survivors face many difficulties. There are no animals or edible plants on their side of the island so after a few days, they decide they need to explore the other side to find food. Ali, a young military doctor, is the only one who knows how to forage, fish and hunt. However, one of the survivors is in a critical condition: Jo, a schoolteacher, is badly injured and lost a lot of blood. She needs constant monitoring by a doctor who can notice the warning signs, otherwise she may not survive. Jo and an elderly survivor want Ali, the doctor, to stay and take care of Jo. However, the other survivors want Ali to join the party searching for food because Ali is the only one among them with the required skills. They are worried that without Ali, the journey to the other side of the island may be fruitless and they will go even longer without food, making them all weaker.

What should Ali do?

Does it make any difference that Jo is a schoolteacher?

When should someone prioritise an individual over the community? And vice-versa?

Should Ali go against their own individual thoughts if the community disagrees?

This is the kind of dilemma that often gets children coming up with practical solutions that sit somewhere between the two options – such as Ali training-up his fellow passengers in bushcraft. Encouraging children’s creativity and imagijnation, yet still maintaining the philosophical struggle between competing actions, is a fine line to tread. 

You might want to allow different proposals, but just make sure children weigh them up on matters of fairness/justice/right and wrong, rather than feasability or chance of success. 

If they start to treat it too much like an Indiana Jones escape, just rule things out – e.g. “it’s not possible to train them before Jo gets worse”. 

Dilemma 3: Individual vs Community

Laila is a young person living in a troubled country, wrecked by civil war and famine. The government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and everything seems set to get worse. Laila has an opportunity to leave the country and go to a university abroad, but this would mean leaving her family and friends behind. Her parents want her to go for her safety and If she gets a job abroad, she might be able to bring her family with her. Her friends think she should stay and help her country. Laila is unsure what to, she feels pressure to protect herself, her family and her nation and all the people in it, and she doesn’t know what is the most important.

What should Laila do?

Do people owe their country anything?

Whart difference would it make if very few could leave the country?

In this kind of situation, is it easier to make a snap decision, or have plenty of time to think about it?

Philosophical vs Real-world

Ask your class: Have you experienced any real-world moral dilemmas? Pre-warn them to keep all names anonymous (Person A, Person B etc.) so they don’t end up dropping anyone in the soup! 

Do philosophical moral dilemmas help you for real-world moral dilemmas?

Present Rushworth Kidder’s idea that there are only four moral dilemmas: Truth vs Loyalty, Individual vs Community, Short Term vs Long Term and Justice vs Mercy.

Can their moral dilemma can be reduced down to one of Kidder’s pairings? Do they agree that there are only four moral dilemmas or can they think of a fifth pair of competing moral values? 

Best wishes,

Tom, Jason and Marley

Never miss a resource! Get these P4C ideas sent straight to your inbox every week for free.

 Sign up here.

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart

We Make Resources So You 
Don't Have To!

We support over 17,000 teachers deepen their pupils' thinking through our weekly bulletin.

You'll receive freshly-made, topical resources to use straight away with your classes.

We only use your email to send you resources. We do not and would never share your information with a third party.

Scroll to Top