Ethical Dilemma


Making ethical decisions is a complicated moral issue, which demands a variety of determinants. It should be based on cognitive evaluation in the framework of theoretical issues and argumentation. In other words, it is not a feeling, though many people regard the situation taking into consideration only their own thoughts and ideas. My friend Rachel has a complicated dilemma of whether to leave her abusive husband or not. The problem of family relations is the most complicated aspect of ethics since family should be regarded as a single unit due to the interests of all the participants.  Rachel needs a right answer for her question that corresponds to the ethical norms.

Utilitarian ethical concept considers the family dilemma with the consideration of the consequences and interests of the other people. Emanuel Kant proposes to make a self-interest choice. In opposition to all known ethical theories, religious advice is self-sacrifice and abnegation. Thus, the ethical decision should be evaluated from a personal perspective since it is provides the opportunity to take into consideration all advantages and disadvantages of the issue.

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Statement of Fact

Rachel faces a serious problem of domestic violence and should make a decision according to the most appropriate ethical norm for all the members of the family. Rachel and Sam married 10 years ago and have one child. Naturally, they are still young but they cannot live together any more. The aspect of happiness is quite important for Rachel and Sam since their little son should have a safe family. Peace and healthy relationship are the background for normal development of a child. However, little David observes domestic violence sometimes. Sam and Rachel had a friendly and loving attitude toward each other. However, their life suddenly became full of constant quarrels and controversy. The problem is that Sam started to abuse and beat his wife. Rachel cannot accept his cruel attitude, moral pressure, and acts of violence, since she is afraid for her life and the psychological condition of their little son.

It is necessary to admit that psychologists and organizations against domestic violence would advice Rachel to leave her abusive husband for the sake of her life, moral and mental condition. Naturally, she should accept this advice and divorce Sam, but she cannot break the family since it can be a serious moral trauma for David. Moreover, she cannot understand why her husband is so cruel. Sam had been king and delicate for 10 years. Certainly, it could be helpful psycologically to find the reason of Sam’s sudden aggression. If Rachel leaft her husband, she would be single and make her son suffer from it. However, in case she stays with Sam and he does not change his attitude, he could kill her. Should she accept the utilitarian approach and regard all the stakeholders or analyze the issue form the Kantian point of view? Rachel faces a complicated ethical decision of whether she should leave her abusive husband or not. It includes many important aspects and the entire family is involved in this issue. Rachel must make the right decision by taking into consideration the moral norms which are the most appropriate for her situation.

Utilitarian Analysis

Utilitarianism is the best known and the most popular ethical concept. It is based on consequential aspects. This theory regards the ethical dilemma from the perspective of its effect and influence on the participants of the conflict. In other words, an ethical decision depends on the wellness of people involved in the case. Utilitarianism prescribes the consequences of actions and moral issues from the aspect of human happiness and with the purpose to increase good things and pleasure for the majority of people. Thus, from the perspective of utilitarianism, Rachel should not leave her husband. The purpose is to make as many people happy as possible. It is necessary to regard all the pros and cons of the presented utilitarian concept. In case Rachel decides to stay with her abusive husband, she would save the integrity and wholeness of the family. It is possible to assume that Sam would also be happy, since he has a family and a loving wife. Domestic violence is a serious problem, but it appeared suddenly and it possibly depends on some internal or external provocative aspects. Sam was not as abusive and aggressive at the beginning of their mutual family life. Their family can be happy again if Sam revises his attitude toward his wife. Thus, he would be much happier if Rachel stays with him and preserves the family. Little David would also be happier if his mother does not divorce his father. It is better for the child to have a normal family since it is the best premise for health and moral development of the child. It is the most perfect variant for Rachel as well, since the divorce is not the only way out of the situation of domestic violence. It is better to seek additional psychological assistance for the husband than to live him, making the members of the family feel depressed.

A different perspective of utilitarianism regards divorce as the most appropriate way out of the situation. Divorce can be more useful for all the participants as the unity of the family was destroyed when Sam started to beat and abuse his wife. The reason for such aggression in unknown. Perhaps, divorce can help hm overcome some moral traumas and make a decision on whether his wife is still important to him. Moreover, divorce is not an obstacle for communication between a father and a son. Rachel should leave her husband since it would be better for David. The circumstances of abusive of Sam toward Rachel can have a more violent effect on mental order of their son than their divorce. David can suffer from Posttraumatic Stress disorder in the future, which may result in complicated relations in society, excessive aggression, and mental disorders. Thus, the family without violence and moral pressure is the best variant for the child, even if the family is not complete. The most essential argument is the risk for health and life. Sam may kill his wife one day as an unintentional consequence of a domestic dispute. Thus, the utilitarian perspective on divorce requires one to examine many important factors to make sure that the decision made is the right one.

Therefore, the second variant seems to be the best ethical decision from the utilitarian perspective. It is necessary to admit that the decision to divorce would have more advantages for people involved in the conflict. The risk of homicide is the most substantial argument for the utilitarian decision. In case the husband unintentionally or intentionally kills his wife, the consequences would be tragic for all members of the family. Thus, divorce is the best course of actions from the utilitarian point of view.

Kantian Analyses

The moral and ethical theories of Emanuel Kant become the biggest inspiration for contemporary philosophy and ethics. The philosopher tried to identify the balance between the world of nature and free will. Kantian ethics derives an additional deontological concept of moral rules, which reject the ideas of utilitarianism. Kant regards the idea of duty as the main driving force for making ethical decisions. Thus, only free will and desires can cause happiness. The absolutes of Kantian theory neglect the concept of consequences. Emanuel Kant presents a kind of moral imperative or universal law.

According to the Kant’s philosophy, it is hard to determine the consequences of Rachel’s decision. The problem is that she does not intend to bring a negative effect on the other members of her family, but her decision cannot help but influence the consequences. It is hard to predict the result of either decision. The divorce may have different effects on the members, as well as the intention to preserve the unity of the family. The consequences Rachel’s decision are not under her control. Rachel can regard her choice as the only opportunity she has to show her morality and behave as a moral person.

Thus, Rachel can regard the ethical dilemma from the Kantian point of view by taking into consideration the concept of the principle of ends and the universal law. The decision of Rachel will have some influence on her son David and her husband Sam. However, she cannot predict the negative or positive character of these consequences. The only way out of this problem is to accept her personal position. It is necessary to regard the self-interest concept of the presented problem first. Rachel should take into consideration the her personal desires when deciding whether to stay with her husband and suffer from humiliation and physical violence or to leave him and try to be happy again. The purpose of life is to be happy, and it does not mean to try and save the family which is based on an unhealthy relationship. The purpose is to find a different person who will not abuse her. Thus, the self-interest concept suggests leaving her husband, preserving her life and health, and trying to be happy again. Thus, Rachel follows her personal desires and interests by taking into consideration certain reasons. However, it is necessary to regard the other variant. Rachel could stay with her husband since she still loves him and has deep feelings about her family relationship. Rachel must try to solve the problem with a different method. It is not a rational way out, but it is a decision that is based on her feelings. Certainly, it is quite an important reason, but Sam can kill his wife or violate her mental ability. Thus, according to Kantian theory, the rational variant is more preferable in such a case.

Consequently, it is better to apply the categorical imperative and calculate the motivations of actions. Rachel should define the consequence of the ethical decisions, which depend only on her personal perspective and necessity. For instance, she may stay with the husband because she has some feelings toward him, or she may divorce him since she has to take care of her future happy life and escape the abuser. Thus, the Kantian theory suggest Rachel should act in accordance with her natural instincts which have obvious reasons. Kant is sure that a human has instincts similar to those of animals, but the existence of a human being defines certain reasons for all the instincts. The reasons can be based on feelings and on rational decisions. The rational reason is more preferable from the Kantian point of view. Thus, the decision to divorce is more appropriate for this situation, because the reasons it is based on are more serious and fundamental than those that the decision to stay with the abusive husband is based on. Nevertheless, Rachel should regard another ethical perspective, which is religion, and try to consider the ethical dilemma from the religious perspective.

Religion as the Ethical Conception

Applying religion as a way to solve the problem is quite controversial since many people do not accept it. However, the Bible proposes many methods for decision making from the ethical point of view. Moreover, it is possible to admit that religion is one of the most frequently used ethical standards  in the world. It is associated with the extension of Christianity in the Western world. It is not necessary to be a Christian in order to accept the ethical propositions for making a decision. Rachel should decide whether to stay with her husband Sam or divorce him. Christianity regards family relations as the most sacred essence of human existence, so people should be careful with these issues. The attitude of a husband toward his wife should be based on deep love, respect, and tenderness similar to the way Jesus Christ loved his church. It is a symbolical expression, but it explains the essence of family relations. The Old Testament prescribes some ethical norms and allows divorce as a way out of different family issues. However, Christians stick to the ethics expressed in the New Testament. Jesus Christ does not allow divorces and considers them a sin. It is not ethically right for women to divorce. Moreover, the wife should show respect toward the husband and be with him. The only reason to leave one’s husband is adultery. Thus, Rachel has a moral right to leave Sam if he betrays her. Thus, it is not ethically right to leave a husband in such a situation. However, from a different perspective, Sam is abuser and Rachel is a victim. The Bible teaches that people should not resist evil attitudes. The Bible prohibits aggression in responce of aggression. Certainly, Rachel should stay with her husband from the religious perspective, because divorce is considered to be for adultery cases only and women should resist evil.


Thus, Rachel faces a complicated ethical dilemma of whether to leave her abusive husband or to stay with him. The utilitarian theory proposes divorce since it can be the most useful variant for all the people involved in the case from the point of view of their wellness. The Kantian concept proposes divorce as well as the utilitarian one, but takes into consideration Rachel’s self-interest and rationalism of the reasons. The religious ethical concept suggests that Rachel should stay with the husband, since the Bible prescribes the value of family as the highest destination of human life. However, I think that Rachel’s decision should be based on ethical theory that she can create herself.

It depends on her personal attitude toward her husband and whether she thinks it is possibile to change him. The utilitarian theory is the most appropriate since Rachel should take into consideration all the members of the family. The concept of Kant is quite controversial, since the philosopher proposes to regard ethical issues from the personal perspective with the intention to attain certain advantages. However, the biggest advantage for the mother is her child’s happiness. Certainly, Rachel should leave her husband to preserve David from mental stress and escape her abusive husband who can kill her. It is not necessarily to divorce, but to try and find psychological assistance. In any case, the best decision is to leave the husband.


Thus, Rachel’s decision to stay with her husband or not depends on the ethical norms and appropriate arguments. She must consider the advantages of both sides and find the best variant. The concept of utilitarianism suggests that she should divorce since all the members of the family will benefit because of it. However, this theory has a weakness as it is impossible to calculate consequences. Thus, the utilitarian theory is as controversial as the Kantian perspective. The universal law of Emanuel Kant proposes taking self-interest and rationalism into consideration. Divorce is not appropriate form the religious perspective, which demands that one should stay with the husband. Thus, it is better to evaluate personal ethical norms, which regard the biggest advantages for all the members of the family when deciding whther to leave the husband but stay with him.