However, human beings have complex social relationships that can't be ignored: If one has an ethical relationship with the neighbour trying to kill you, then, usually, their desire to kill you would likely be the result of mental illness on their part, stories told to them by others, e.g. their daughter claims you raped her. Such conflicts might be settled by some other path that has strong social support. Societies formed criminal justice systems (some argue also ethical traditions and religions) to defuse just such deep conflicts. Such systems always impose trained judges who are presumed to have an ethical relationship and also a clear obligation to all who come before them.
These arguments can be refuted in various ways, for example by showing that the claimed ethical dilemma is only apparent and does not really exist (thus is not a paradox logically), or that the solution to the ethical dilemma involves choosing the greater good and lesser evil (as discussed in value theory), or that the whole framing of the problem is omitting creative alternatives (as in peacemaking), or (more recently) that situational ethics or situated ethics must apply because the case can't be removed from context and still be understood. See also case-based reasoning on this process.
There are many examples of moral dilemmas; for instance, a more up to date dilemma is abortion. A woman who has been raped but found out that she is now pregnant from the rapist can choose whether to abort or to keep the fetus. The question is "whether the fetus has rights and, if so, how they are to be balanced against the right of the mother." Peter Vardy. A further confounding factor is that pregnancy may threaten the life of the mother, thus implicating the mother's right to life, rather than her rights of bodily integrity and personal choice.
Perhaps the most commonly cited ethical conflict is that between an imperative or injunction not to steal and one to care for a family that you cannot afford to feed without stolen money. Debates on this often revolve around the availability of alternate means of income or support, e.g. a social safety net, charity, etc. The debate is in its starkest form when framed as stealing food. In Les Misérables Jean Valjean does this and is relentlessly pursued. Under an ethical system in which stealing is always wrong and letting one's family die from starvation is always wrong, a person in such a situation would be forced to commit one wrong to avoid committing another, and be in constant conflict with those whose view of the acts varied.
However, there are few legitimate ethical systems in which stealing is more wrong than letting one's family die. Ethical systems do in fact allow for, and sometimes outline, tradeoffs or priorities in decisions. Some ethicists have suggested that international law requires this kind of mechanism to, for instance, resolve whether WTO or Kyoto Protocol takes precedence in deciding whether a WTO notification is valid. That is, whether nations may use trade mechanisms to complain about measures each other takes regarding climate change. As there are few economies that can operate smoothly in a chaotic climate, the dilemma would seem to be easy to resolve, but since fallacious justifications for restricting trade are easily imagined - just as, at the family level, fallacious justifications for theft are easily imagined - the seemingly obvious resolution becomes clouded by the suspicion of an illegitimate motive. Resolving ethical dilemmas is rarely simple or clearcut and very often involves revisiting similar dilemmas that recur within societies:
According to some philosophers and sociologists, e.g. Karl Marx, it is the different life experience of people and the different exposure of them and their families in these roles (the rich being constantly stolen from, the poor in a position of constant begging and subordination) that creates social class differences. In other words, ethical dilemmas can become political and economic factions that engage in long term recurring struggles. See conflict theory and left-wing politics versus right-wing politics.
Design of a voting system, other electoral reform, a criminal justice system, or other high-stakes adversarial process for dispute resolution will almost always reflect the deep persistent struggles involved. However, no amount of good intent and hard work can undo a bad role structure:
Where a structural conflict is involved, dilemmas will very often recur. A trivial example is working with a bad operating system whose error messages do not match the problems the user perceives. Each such error presents the user with a dilemma: reboot the machine and continue working at one's employment, or, spend time trying to reproduce the problem for the benefit of the developer of the operating system.
So role structure sabotages feedback and results in sub-optimal results since provision has been made to actually reward people for reporting these errors and problems. See total quality management for more on addressing this kind of failure, and governance on how many ethical and structural conflicts can be resolved with appropriate supervisory mechanisms.
Working through an ethical dilemma: while on a clinical placement, a second-year nursing student faced a complex ethical dilemma. She explains how she worked through the issues involved.(EXEMPLAR)
Feb 01, 2009; Ethics is the study of good conduct, character and motives, and is concerned with determining what is good or valuable for all...