The Clash of the Moral Titans
A question that has been brought up quite a lot is whether it is right to impose one nation’s morals on another? In this world there are many different societies with many different beliefs. We try to keep each nation's law and morals separate but sometimes there is conflict especially with neighboring countries. In the news today there is constant talk about the middle east. Countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have been fighting each other over what seems to us nothing. Also the laws in these countries is heavily influenced by the Islamic religion. Some of these laws include decapitation if one is caught masturbating and women are barley being able to leave their own homes.
What is common to the two well-known cases is conflict. In each case, an agent regards herself as having moral reasons to do each of two actions, but doing both actions is not possible. Ethicists have called situations like these moral dilemmas. The crucial features of a moral dilemma are these: the agent is required to do each of two (or more) actions; the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions. The agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what she does, she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that she ought to do).
The Platonic case strikes many as too easy to be characterized as a genuine moral dilemma. For the agent's solution in that case is clear; it is more important to protect people from harm than to return a borrowed weapon. And in any case, the borrowed item can be returned later, when the owner no longer poses a threat to others. Thus in this case we can say that the requirement to protect others from serious harm overrides the requirement to repay one's debts by returning a borrowed item when its owner so demands. When one of the conflicting requirements overrides the other, we do not have a genuine moral dilemma. So in addition to the features mentioned above, in order to have a genuine moral dilemma it must also be true that neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden [Sinnott-Armstrong (1988), Chapter 1].