January 03, 2009

Ethics 101: Compare and Contrast

JSF readers, we have a quiz for you.

Please explain, in your own words, what each of the writers in the following passages perceives as a "moral dilemma." Can you articulate in each case the two 'lemmas' (horns) of the dilemma as competing moral principles? What are the proposed solutions? Are they satisfactory? Can you imagine a situation in which the proposed ways of solving the dilemma would be satisfactory for you? Where and how do you draw the line?

Sarah Roy writes that being Jewish means “bearing witness, raging against injustice and refusing silence. It means compassion, tolerance, and rescue. In the absence of these imperatives…we cease to be Jews.”

However, a deeper reading of Judaism shows that whilst Jews as a people have been defined by their capacity for compassion and tolerance of others, there are times when we are forbidden to act upon those feelings because such action would be destructive...

It is important to feel compassion for the residents of Gaza, but that feeling of concern and sympathy must not be confused with ethical and moral clarity. On the contrary, making a decision not to mount a defense against lethal terrorists based on a feeling of compassion is not only immoral and un-Jewish it is also idiotic and deeply irresponsible. (Rabbi Levi Brackman)

One basic principal must be the absolute rule for the SS man: we must be honest, decent, loyal, and comradely to members of our own blood and to nobody else...We shall never be rough and heartless when it is not necessary, that is clear. We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude towards animals, will also assume a decent attitude towards these human animals.

hitler and nazism compared to Israel in gaza and palestinians

But it is a crime against our own blood to worry about them and give them ideals, thus causing our sons and grandsons to have a more difficult time with them. When someone comes to me and says, "I cannot dig the anti-tank ditch with women and children, it is inhuman, for it will kill them", then I would have to say, "you are a murderer of your own blood because if the anti-tank ditch is not dug, German soldiers will die, and they are the sons of German mothers. They are our own blood". ( Heinrich Himmler )

Hat tip to a certain rabbi kook.


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