Ethical exercises for debates, discussion, and individual and team development
Table of contents
The fun ethics puzzle and answers are after the ethical questions below.
First here are some more serious and appropriate thought-provoking questions for ethical discussion, debating and team exercises.
1. TV 'quiz' channels which exploit vulnerable people by using virtually impossible puzzles and extortionate premium-rate telephone methods (late at night, when many viewers might be under the influence of alcohol), are effectively lotteries and should be regulated as such, which would then see their right to broadcast removed. Discuss.
2. Benefit fraud of course is against the law. Are the fraudsters not however mostly ordinary disadvantaged people - and easy targets - trying to make ends meet in an unfair society, which at the same time enables corporations and individuals to avoid paying billions in taxes 'legitimately', simply because the rich and powerful know how to cheat within the law. Discuss.
3. Is Britain/the USA now a damaged global brand? Discuss.
4. Having 'God on your side' justifies nothing, and we should be mightily wary of anyone (especially anyone in a position of leadership) who justifies their actions according to 'God', whoever/whatever that is. Discuss.
More ethical questions for debate and discussion, etc.
Please note that this item contains misleading and exaggerated information (ack Mick and Lynn for assistance), so use it with care, and ensure people are warned after answering the puzzle that certain 'facts' are historically unreliable. The item appears here - and can arguably be used for ethical learning and demonstration - because it is a popular and accessible puzzle, and despite the exaggerations, the principle lesson remains valid, i.e., that we all too quickly make quick ethical judgements based on our own conditioned ideas of what is good and bad. Quick judgements and subjective criteria rarely give a reliable assessment of actual goodness and potential.
Two ethical questions:
Question 1: If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had eight children already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one physically disabled, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion?
Remember your honest answer and go to question 2.
Question 2: It is time to elect the world leader, and yours is the deciding vote. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:
- Candidate A: He associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologers. He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks up to ten Martinis a day.
- Candidate B: He was ejected from office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a large amounts of whisky every evening.
- Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn't had any extra-marital affairs.
Which of these candidates would be your choice? Decide, then see the answer below.
Candidate A is Franklin D Roosevelt, Candidate B is Winston Churchill, and Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.
And by the way the answer to the abortion question... If you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.
Please note: This ethics puzzle became popular during the 1990's when it was widely circulated in various formats by email. Certain historical facts in the puzzle however are not correct, notably relating to Beethoven's background, which while humble was not nearly so disadvantaged as the puzzle suggests. Similarly the negative aspects of Roosevelt and Churchill are exaggerated, and Hitler would have found it difficult to conduct any extra-marital affairs given that he was first married in a bunker shortly before his death.
The points made by the puzzle are nevertheless valid, which is why it remains on this page.
We all tend to make ethical judgements based on conditioned and subjective views of what is right and proper.
And we all tend to make snap decisions in assessing whether something is right or wrong, before seeking the full story.
The need to examine what really lies beneath the surface when judging good and bad will become increasingly important as ethics and ethical issues become genuinely popular mainstream concerns.
Powerful organisations, politicians and the media are very clever at 'spinning' and distorting information so as to control public opinion.
Therefore modern ethical issues such as corruption, environmental action, humanitarianism, the excesses of globalisation, etc., cannot be judged on face-value and what the political and corporate leaders say, nor even by any measurement and survey instruments over which they have influence.
Judging important matters such as ethics on the surface is no basis for proper judgement, moreover we make it very easy for those who seek to deceive and exploit us when we fail to question and examine things properly before deciding.
Transparency, scrutiny, and a public demand for truth are the drivers for real ethical accountability.