Ethicist: As a function of one's job and societal role, one has various duties. There are situations where acting in...

Kath on October 22, 2019


Could you explain this question? Any easier ways to tackle it? I spent so much time on this question.

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SamA on October 22, 2019

Hello @Kath,

Conforms to principle questions can be difficult, but I think it will help you to simplify the principle in your mind.

Here is what I would say: One should perform one's duties, unless there is overwhelming evidence that doing so will lead to disaster.

There is only one condition in which duty can be avoided. That is with overwhelming evidence of disaster. Otherwise, duty must be fulfilled. Try to apply that to each answer choice, and you will find it is possible to answer quickly.

The passage sounds complex, but the principle is pretty easy to understand. Now, the challenge is in finding the specific situation for which our general principle is most applicable. Some of our wrong answers will directly contradict the principle, and for others the principle will not apply. Our correct answer will have something to do with duty, as well as evidence of disastrous consequences. Let's go through the answer choices.

A. Does "might harm" sound like overwhelming evidence? No. Does "not obtaining an internship" sound disastrous? No. Therefore, what should the teacher do? She should fulfill her duty. This is in accordance with the principle, and our correct answer.

B. The duty is to tell his friend the truth. Will this lead to disastrous consequences? No. The duty ought to be fulfilled. This violates our principle.

C. Will the police officer fulfilling his duty have disastrous consequences? It doesn't say, therefore we cannot apply our principle. Incorrect.

D. Here we have two conflicting duties. There is no evidence of disaster with either duty, so our principle does not apply.

E. A slight chance is far from "overwhelming evidence." Therefore, the journalist should fulfill his duty. This conflicts with our principle.