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The Four Paradigms of Ethics

Tthe four paradigms of ethical dilemmas as stated in the book “How Good People Make Tough Choices” by Rushworth M. Kidder.

Since the beginning of time, people have been faced with ethical and moral choices that have tested their mental fitness in the ability to make the right choice. Sometimes it’s a small choice like “should I eat a good breakfast before I take this test?” but sometimes the choice isn’t that small, like “should I try to save that child from the burning building or should I go get help?” In these types of situations, the major ethical dilemma is usually caused by two ethically right choices that you see can both have a good outcome. Going in and saving the child from the burning building will be quicker than waiting for firemen, and they have a better chance of surviving. But what if you fall and hurt yourself in the building and die? Calling the fire department would take longer but they know what to do to keep everyone as safe as possible. These types of decisions that have two ethically correct choices are called a right vs. right choice. Within these rights vs. right choices, there are four dilemma paradigms to classify the situation. The paradigms are: Truth vs. loyalty, individual vs. community, short-term vs. long term, and justice vs. mercy. These four paradigms can classify any right vs. right situation into at least one of the categories.

Truth vs. loyalty can be explained as honesty vs. promise keeping, or integrity vs. commitment. A situation Kidder explains in his book about this paradigm is one of a librarian, who receives a call from a man asking for information of the rape laws of that city. She thinks it’s probably for a school project, takes his name and number and says she would call him with the information. An officer in the library overhears this phone conversation and asks for the person’s information, saying there have been a few rapes in the city and this person might be the criminal. The librarian could either give him the information, or the “truth”, or she could keep “loyal” to her code of librarian ethics of not giving out personal information of people to others. In another situation that I myself have experienced; on the last day of school a bunch of kids decided to make a slip and slide out of the school hallway, with soap and water. The teachers were questioning everyone about who did it and trying to find the people responsible for the mess. When I was asked, I had to decide if I would be truthful and tell the teacher who exactly did it, or remain loyal to my fellow students and not rat them out.

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