Question

In the movie Sophie's Choice

, a woman is forced to choose which one of her children to send to the gas chamber.  If she does not decide, both will be killed.  How would ethical formalism resolve this dilemma?  How would utilitarianism resolve it?

Answer & Explanation
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Formalism and Utilitarianism in Ethical  Dilemmas

Sophie's decision is based on the true story of a lady who must choose between her two children. She has a neighbor who is a survivor of the Holocaust. Deborah Eustis, author of Sophie's Choice, desired to write a story that captured women's resilience and determination during times of war. If she chose to send one of her children to the gas chamber, the other would perish in the process. As a result, she enquired of family members, "which child should I choose?" They concluded that they had made a mistake by not inquiring as to Sophie's views. They had no right to meddle in Sophie's life or make decisions for both of them.


Sophie's choice, according to ethical formalism, is neither correct nor incorrect. Sophie is under no moral obligation to make a choice regarding her children. She made her choice because she have the wealth and power in her planet to do so. Hers is the option. If she makes this choice, it is correct, as it is Sophie's, not her neighbors' or their government's.

 

Additionally, Sophie's choice is correct since she would make the same option if she possessed additional resources. If she possessed additional resources, she would opt not to murder her child and send him to the gas chamber. However, in Sophie's universe, this is not true. She has sufficient finances to live comfortably and receive an adequate education, but not nearly enough to significantly change her status. As a result, her choice of child to send was limited to those who could be made accessible at this point in her life.


According to utilitarianism, morality is determined by what produces the greatest good for the greatest number. Utilitarianism would consider the children as individuals and the decision as a whole in this scenario. Rather than focusing exclusively on Sophie, these principles would apply to future generations of children. They will be even more susceptible if they continue to live in today's world. They are sensitive to what happens to them due to their innocence and fragility. They are incapable of making sound judgments on their own, leaving them vulnerable to the choices of those around them. If they are exploited or used as pawns in resource disputes, it is not their fault.

 

To summarize, utilitarianism would have permitted Sophie to make her choice regardless of her circumstances. She is accountable for her own health and well-being. Regardless matter the outcome, coercing someone into making a choice is cruel. According to utilitarianism, Sophie's choice was not cruel because it was based on what she had available at the time. It is not acceptable for one person to take decisions away from another if that person is incapable of making their own.

Step-by-step explanation

Dilemmas in Ethical Formalism and Utilitarianism

Sophie's choice, is based on the story of a woman who is forced to make a choice between her two children. She has a neighbor, a holocaust survivor.  Deborah Eustis , the author of Sophie's Choice , wanted to write a novel that would capture women's strength and strength during wartime. If she decided to send one of her children to the gas chamber, the other would be killed. So she asked family members " which child should I choose? "  They decided that they were wrong for not asking Sophie her own opinion. They had no right interfering with Sophie's life and making decisions for them both .


According to ethical formalism, Sophie's choice is neither right nor wrong.  Sophie has no moral duty to make a decision one way or another with regards to her children. She made her choice because she had enough resources and power in her world to make this decision for herself. The choice is hers.  If she made this choice, it would be correct because it is Sophie's choice, not her neighbors' or their government's.

 

In addition, Sophie's choice is not wrong because she would make the same decision if she had more resources.  If she had more resources, she would choose to not kill her child and send him to the gas chamber. But this is not true in Sophie's world. She has enough resources for a comfortable life and a good education, but not enough to greatly improve her situation. Therefore, her choice of which child to send was the only one that could be made available for her at this time in her life.


Morality, according to utilitarianism , is a matter of what will produce the greatest good for the greatest number. In this case, utilitarianism would look at the children as individuals and the decision as a whole. Instead of looking at Sophie as an individual, these rules would be applied for all future generations of children. If they are still living in today's world, they will be even more vulnerable.  Because of their innocence and vulnerability they are sensitive to what happens to them.  They are not capable of making proper decisions on their own which makes them vulnerable to whatever choices people around them make. If they are taken advantage of or used as pawns in disputes over resources, it was not their choice to make.

 

In conclusion, utilitarianism would have allowed Sophie to make her choice regardless of the situation she was in.  She is responsible for her own wellbeing.  However, regardless of the results, it is cruel to force someone to choose . Sophie's choice, according to utilitarianism , was not cruel because it was simply what she had available at the time . It's not right for one person to take decisions away from another person if they can not make their own decision because they are not capable of doing so.

 

References

Dong, R., Lu, T., Hu, Q., & Ni, S. (2021). The effect of formalism on unethical decision making: The mediating effect of moral disengagement and moderating effect of moral attentiveness. Business Ethics: A European Review, 30(1), 127-142.

Pollock, J. M. (2016). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. Cengage Learning.

Patil, I., Zucchelli, M. M., Kool, W., Campbell, S., Fornasier, F., Calò, M., ... & Cushman, F. (2021). Reasoning supports utilitarian resolutions to moral dilemmas across diverse measures. Journal of personality and social psychology, 120(2), 443.