Dominantly we try to solve moral dilemmas with non-quantitative and/or highly cognitive methods of philosophy1 and theology. Nevertheless, at least to the author’s knowledge, a convincing systematization of moral dilemmas is still missing.2 For this reason, she will present a first draft of such a systematization of moral dilemmas, worked out during the last years, and discuss the problem of the connected car versus data protection within this framework. So, the goal is only to propose such a systematization, but not that the systematization provides solutions of dilemmas easily. This would be much to much.
Moral Dilemmas ^
The moral dilemma in the sense of literary science ^
From a literary point of view and understood as a literary genre5 moral dilemmas can be roughly taken as narrative texts of the type of «(short) short stories»6 about moral dilemmas in the sense of philosophy. Usually they end with the direct request to the reader to give a rationally justified moral judgment – sometimes even to propose some (fictive) intervention. Despite this the moral dilemma has similarities with parable and murder ballad because of its focus on morality, but it also resembles the anecdote, at least partly. The plot usually takes place only in one single, often fictive place. A neutral narrator usually not appearing as such tells a fictional, usually dramatically escalating plot (in the sense of a course of tempo-spatially fixed events involving intelligent agents) that typically involves existential questions. The (fictive) protagonists are usually characterized only very sketchily and bear no names or names of little significance. The reader often knows more than the protagonists, e.g. about the inner world of other protagonists, their background or the further course of events, e.g. we know that under some circumstances a lifeboat will certainly go under. Very often, the antagonist is not a person but the constellation of the dramatic circumstances.
The Moral Dilemma in the Sense of Philosophy ^
- «Problem»: A problem is a relevant deviation of a desired state from an actual state whereby given the boundary conditions (esp. actors, rating scale, relevance and dominance conditions) the desired state is rated more valuable than the actual state. Often this involves the task of solving the problem, i.e. the requirement to adapt or at least approximate the actual state to the desired state.
- «Morality»: morality8 is a normative and/or evaluative system of human nature and culture, which as far as we know is a human universal and has the following characteristics: (1) it is dominated by the question of the distribution of suffering and happiness among humans; (2) there is a dominant, emotionally sensitive and morally constitutive (but also cognitively understandable) core area9, where morally relevant actions trigger specific emotional reactions such as sentiment, indignation etc., but these reactions can also be scientifically explained; (3) there are moral entities that can be added contingently by association, like the great moral artifacts of humanity, such as the «morally correct treatment of gods» governed by the moral systems of world religions.10
- «Difficult»: Is meant in an empirical sense here and related to problems. Thus a problem is understood to be difficult if it is found to be difficult by the typical expert in the field.
- «Entanglement»: Given is a combination of factors and some of these factors are necessary. Now if an alternative (e.g. an action) that produces such a necessary factor or at least makes its existence likely but simultaneously takes another necessary factor away ore at least makes it unlikely, this is what we call entanglement here. For example, if the task is to build a house with four statically necessary cornerstones, each entangled alternative would simultaneously provide a cornerstone and take away at least one other. A problem becomes a dilemma if and only if all alternatives are entangled in this sense.
- «Problem solution»: This will be discussed in more detail in one of the next sections.
A moral dilemma in the sense of philosophy = df. a difficult moral problem that requires at least two necessary factors to solve, but all alternatives are entangled. This means that if any alternative produces one necessary factor or at least makes it more likely, it simultaneously destroys another necessary factor or at least makes it more unlikely. Thus, it makes the whole moral problem difficult (=weak dilemma) or completely unsolvable (= strong dilemma). As a formal structure of a strong (!) dilemma, one might suggest: «OA , A → B ∧ C, D ∨ E, D → B ∧ ¬ C, E → C ∧ ¬ B ⊢ ¬ A».11
Strong and Weak Dilemmas ^
Ceteris Paribus Condition ^
Moral Dilemma Solving ^
Rationally Justified Solutions and the Functional Core of Moral Dilemmas ^
Solutions Ex-ante and Ex-post ^
Solutions in the Proper Sense and Workaround Solutions ^
A solution in the proper sense is a solution in compliance with the ceteris paribus condition already mentioned. This does not apply to workaround solutions. Here, the ceteris-paribus condition may be violated in principle15: A workaround solution does not solve the original problem but another problem (linked with the original one), but the second solution is accepted as a sufficient solution of the original problem as well. A good example of this is the approximate calculation of the number π [«pi»] in rational numbers. Strictly speaking, the number π has never been calculated at all until now, because we only have an approximate value, i.e. actually another number. However, since this number is sufficiently similar to the number π for many tasks, this is virtually always regarded as sufficient for mathematics. The same is true of the famous problem of dividing 17 camels of a deceased father to his three sons, without dividing the animals.16 Many readers probably know this riddle from their childhood. Overall, the following types of solutions are apparent:
- Solution in the proper sense
- Workaround solutions: i.e. (1) approximation, (2) optimization, (3) analogy and (4) free solution substitution.
Functional Mechanisms and Systematization of Moral Dilemmas ^
- There are no content restrictions for the production of entanglements
- Dilemmas and dilemmatic factors can be freely combined
- Entanglement is dominantly generated by four classes of structural factors (= structural perspective)
- There are four classes of incommensurate factors (= content related perspective)
Phases and transitional phases: For our systematization we use a trivialized form of terms from thermodynamics, where one distinguishes between spatial-temporal sections of relative stability, called phases, and intermediate or transitional stages between them, alled transitional phases. We don’t claim that this holds for all phenomena, for there are phenomena completely consisting of transitional phases because the transition is so gradual that the distinction between phases and transitional phases is impossible. But, we do claim that not all phenomena are such like. It is possible that two (stable) phases may have an unstable transitional phase between them, as can be seen in the transition from liquid water to steam by boiling it. Often, the transitional phase is so gradual that it is difficult or impossible to determine, where the transitional phase begins and ends exactly, but despite being quite common, the existence of a transitional phase does not prove the nonexistence of the phases – rather the opposite. Good examples are dusk and dawn: the existence of dusk and dawn does not prove that there is no day and night. The idea of phases and transitional phases can be adapted to philosophy and applied to phenomena such as the famous sorites paradox18 or the bald man paradox19. The distinction between phases and transitional phases forms the core of our system of structural incommensurate factors, which are: (1) intrinsic incommensurability, (2) epistemic incommensurability (various degrees of ignorance, caused e.g. by blurring, obfuscation, etc.), (3) phase incommensurability (super-contrast, subliminal factors, over-threshold, and para-incommensurability) and (4) phase transition incommensurability (e.g. stochastic or chaotic).
Systematization of Content-related Incommensurate Factors as Entanglement Sources in Moral Dilemmas ^
Mathematical and Logical Factors ^
Natural Factors ^
- Super contrast: i.e. differences that are so enormous that they become incommensurable
- Subliminal factors: this means that phenomena are just below an assumed threshold, but they occur frequently. A well-known example are so-called micro aggressions and the problem is that the single act of aggression is so small, that even the proof of its existence is hard, but they are said to occur so frequently that in sum they make a big social problem.
- Over-threshold factors: means that phenomena are above the conceptual threshold, like nuclear accidents. «Life» is often like this, if it has to be compared with «minor» things like pain or injury.
- Para-incommensurability: This includes, for example, the distinction between Potentia and Actus, which is quite similar with probability already mentions above.
Factors of transitional phase incommensurability: As already mentioned above, even if phases are characterized by relative stability, unknown and/or unstable transitional phases may occur between them. Such a transition may be serial or parallel and one of the best examples (for a serial transition) is the famous sorites paradox, where you are ask to indicate how many grains of sand you have to collect exactly so that it makes a heap of sand. In this example there is a transition from one phase (collection of sand grains) to another (heap od sand), thus one assumes that there necessarily exist two phases and some kind of transitional phase22 in between, but one doesn’t know where the exact boundaries lie. The reason for this is quite controversial.23 One has to distinguish between:
- Purely unknown transition boundaries: are best illustrated by the already mentioned sorites paradox; other well-known examples include dusk/dawn and puberty.
- Unstable (e.g. stochastic or chaotic) phase transitions: this is evident, as already stated, when one boils water, thus lets it transition from stable water to also rather stable steam.
Human Factors ^
- Known and unknown factors in general
- Suspicious and non-suspicious factors: esp. suspicious of wrongdoing or mimicry
Specific Moral Factors ^
Aspects of Moral Parameters ^
- Serial uniparametric factors: e.g. investment versus consume (like eating the seeds for the new harvest in case of hunger)
- Parallel uniparametric factors:
- Objective perspective versus subjective perspective
- Comparing the extends to which moral principles are reached and/or moral goods are saved or sacrificed (e.g. lifeboat dilemmas)
- Collisions between moral principles
- Moral principles versus other moral principles (beneficence/maleficence versus justice or fairness versus freedom24)
- Moral goods versus other moral goods (Life versus happiness/suffering versus injury)
- Collisions between moral principles and other factors (compliance with principles versus consequences versus intentions)
Aspects of Moral Technology ^
- The ex-ante perspective: Aspects of «moral lawmaking»
- Phase problems
- Moral principle setting in general
- Balancing interests and justice (iustitia legalis), e.g. private versus public interest
- Exception setting and hardship avoidance
- Transitional phase problems
- Defining the borders of categories
- Defining thresholds categories
- Phase problems
- The ex-post perspective: moral principle application and moral judgment
- Moral principle application
- Balancing interests and justice in application
- Exception setting and hardship avoidance in application
- Moral judgment, punishment and rewarding
- Compliance with principles versus consequences versus intentions (e.g. guilt and innocence versus other factors)
- Special justifications and excuses
Aspects of Specific Moral Cultures ^
Assessing the Dilemma of Implementing Connected Cars versus Data Protection ^
- Public chance of saving human life vs. public risk of loosing freedom
- Private chance of selling and using connected cars vs. public risk of loosing freedom
- 1 The author regards her text as part of Analytic Philosophy, except that she avoids formulas whenever possible in favor of natural language. Inevitable, some terms like «difficult», «solution» etc. are used in multiple meanings. Whenever the meaning can be understood from the context the author abstains from using indices for the sake of better readability.
- 2 In his contribution to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Moral Dilemmas (cf. McConnell, Terrance, Moral Dilemmas. In: Zalta, Edward N. [ed.], The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Fall 2014 Edition], Item 7 [Types of Moral dilemmas], URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/moral-dilemmas/ [all websites last accessed on 7 January 2018]) McConnell presents some classical approaches to such a systematization. Although meritorious this does not reach the core of moral dilemmas.
- 3 The existence of dilemmas is actually a highly controversial issue in ethics, but since we will not discuss on this we will a priori and corrigibly accept the possibility of their existence here.
- 4 Moral dilemmas play a big role in African literature. For some examples cf. https://www.britannica.com/art/dilemma-tale.
- 5 Whether moral dilemmas should be understood as literature at all is undoubtedly controversial, but we will not discuss on this any further.
- 6 For some examples cf. https://americanliterature.com/short-short-stories.
- 7 When we use the term «moral dilemma» without any extension in this text we mean it in the philosophical sense. For an introduction cf. Raters, Marie-Luise, Das moralische Dilemma: Anatomie der praktischen Vernunft, Karl Alber, Freiburg et al. 2013; Foot, Philippa, Moral Dilemmas and other Topics in Moral Philosophy, Clarendon Press, Oxford 2002; and Gowans, Christoper W. (ed.), Moral Dilemmas, Oxford University Press, New York et al. 1987.
- 8 We use the standard definition of the author.
- 9 So, in the constituent core area one does not know what morality is, but one feels it.
- 10 Obviously, there are areas of moral that only count as such because people regard them as such.
- 11 The symbols correspond to the usual logical and/or mathematical notation (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_logic_symbols, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_logic and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontic_logic. We obviously exclude questions of perspective in favor of easier readability and of course, deductive validity of this formula is not claimed here. Further, our formula shows, that we do not follow the classical form of dilemma. A quite common formula for the simple constructive dilemma reads: «A → C, B → C, A ∨ B ⊢ C» and for the simple destructive dilemma «A → B, A → C, ¬ B ∨ ¬ C ⊢ ¬ A» (Thiel, Christian, Dilemma, in: Mittelstrass, Jürgen (ed.), Encyclopedie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, Stuttgart, 1980, Vol. 1, p. 482).
- 12 See above.
- 13 Depending on the context, we will use the term «difficult», as including insolvability or excluding it.
- 14 Today there are only a few accepted exceptions like self-defense, some forms of killing in war and abortion (if understood as a sacrifice of people).
- 15 The exact details cannot be discussed here any further.
- 16 For instance cf. https://mathoverflow.net/questions/271608/17-camels-trick.
- 17 But not in some other types of geometry.
- 18 «Indicate how many grains of sand you need to have in order to speak of a heap of sand!», cf. Hyde, Dominic, Sorites Paradox. In: Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/sorites-paradox/.
- 19 «Indicate how many hairs a man is allowed to have, that you still can say he is bald!»
- 20 Cf. Cantini, Andrea and Bruni, Riccardo, Paradoxes and Contemporary Logic. In: Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/paradoxes-contemporary-logic/.
- 21 McNamara, Paul, Deontic Logic, The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/logic-deontic/, point 4.2.
- 22 In such a temporal transformation also a simple border between to subsequent phases has to be assumed a transitonal phase.
- 23 Hyde, Dominic, Sorites Paradox. In: Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/sorites-paradox/.
- 24 Cf. Beauchamp, Tom L./Childress, James F., Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 7th edition, Oxford University Press, New York et al. 2012.