In the everyday world, morality often leads us to believe that there are only two definitive choices that we can resort to when faced with a problem, ‘This’ or ‘That’ and something along the lines. Why haven’t we ever questioned the authenticity and morality of these generic terms that have formed the foundations of our decision-making. If someone were to ask you what your definition of ‘good’ would be, would you have a definitive answer or would the answer vary from people to people?
Unfortunately, we live in a society that has already laid out the framework or rather guidelines, in accordance to which we are judged for the decisions we make. My argument being, how can we possibly bind and narrow down the basis of morality or conscience and their interpretation in the concerned context?
To provide an insight, let me put forward a famous hypothetical situation commonly referred to as, ‘Heinz’ Dilemma’ as proposed by the psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg. It addresses the various stages of moral development in an individual.
In this situation, Heinz’ wife is diagnosed with a rare type of cancer which the doctors say, can only be treated with a particular drug that is available at only one pharmaceutical shop in town. Not only is the production cost of the drug very high but also is the pharmacy demanding a ridiculous sum of money: 10 times the original cost!
Heinz being of a lower section of the economic hierarchy is not able to afford the drug and resorts to asking his friends and family to lend him some amount, this too amounting to roughly half of the required sum of money.
Heinz being in a helpless situation of sorts, has the following options to consider regarding his further actions and the consequences they may have:
Heinz should steal the drug and not go to prison as it is morally incorrect and simply unfair.
Heinz should not steal the drug since that would mean breaking the law and is a punishable offence.
Heinz should steal the drug and accept any prison sentence.
Take a moment to analyse the situation and put yourself in Heinz’ shoes and decide what you would have done in such a situation. Kohlberg studied the responses and categorically divided them into a ‘pre-conventional’, ‘conventional’ and ‘postconventional’ stage of moral development, in no particular order.
To extend the argument, the psychologist understood the tendencies that humans portray in times of distress and categorized them according to the criteria of a moral development based on the general consensus. However, the very fact that this consensus involved of people who were already in some way biased, means that yet again has the meaning of the term ‘good’, been diluted. The choices that we make under the pretext of ‘free will’ is all an illusion and judgements cannot be formed based upon the face value of the argument; the context in which it is placed is absolutely critical while concluding.
To cap things off, in my opinion, there is more to decision-making than the two options; a wide spectrum of possibilities and solutions lie in between these boundaries. By merely complying to the preconceived notions based on this subject will not suffice as originality and individuality, one needs to be more rational and inquisitive about the entire process.
If you have any other alternative theory regarding the same, do reach out to me via the comments section below.