Former Temple University students are going on a national tour along with current Temple professors.
In an effort to promote reflection and lively discussion of pressing modern issues, Temple’s General Alumni Association kicked off its “Temple on the Road” lecture series on Nov. 6 in New York City.
On the evening of Nov. 7, the lecture series stopped at the Park Bellvue Hotel in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia presentation, titled “Complex Problems, Tough Choices: Ethics in America,” was designed to stimulate discussion and socialization within the Temple Alumni community.
The series will continue to travel to cities and universities across the country, with each stop on the tour featuring distinguished Temple faculty, alumni and friends leading the discussions on pressing issues.
The panel for the discussion on Nov. 7 was composed of three instructors from the Temple faculty.
The discussion opened up with each panelist presenting a different view of ethical decision making.
Dr. Shelley Willcox, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, presented a philosophical spin on ethical decision-making.
She referred back to the classical scholars Plato and Sophocles as a reference point for debate about making tough ethical choices.
“Some people are deontological in their ethical decision making; that is, they always try do the ‘right thing,’ regardless of the outcome,” Dr. Willcox said.
“A consequentialist ethical standpoint would look specifically at the consequences of making the decision.
They are two very different modes of thinking, but neither one is considered inherently wrong.”
Eleanor Myers, an associate professor of law in the Beasley School of Law, said that the hardest ethical decision is to choose between two good options that each have their own set of consequences.
She gave an every-day example to illustrate the point:
“Let’s say that you see an old friend one day that you haven’t seen in a long time,” she said.
“That person has put on a lot of weight and is smoking profusely. Should you comment on his condition to show you care about his well being, or should you say nothing and respect his dignity? These are difficult right versus right choices, because both options are trying to help the person in one way or another.”
Terry Halbert, an attorney and professor of legal studies in the Fox School of Business, gave some examples of the real world pressures that influence decision-making, especially in the business world.
“It is important to realize that the extreme pressure that some people are faced with can distort their better judgment,” said Halbert.
“This is especially true for big business. Large companies often have investor and consumer interests in mind as well as their own agenda, and questionable things are sometimes done to further important goals.”
The centerpiece of the discussion was a five-minute video presentation about two New Zealanders who were climbing in the Himalayas.
About 300 miles and 30 days into the endeavor, they were almost finished their journey.
The pair encountered another climber from further up the trail, who left them with a half-frozen and half-dead religious pilgrim who was on a spiritual crusade up the mountain.
The New Zealanders were faced with a difficult decision.
They could leave the man to die and continue upward before conditions got too bad to climb, or they could backtrack and try to find help.
They helped revive and warm the man temporarily, and passed him off to another party that was following them, where he died shortly after.
A discussion between the panel and the audience followed the film; the participants debated the climbers’ decision, and discussed how that situation could apply to each person at some point in their own lives.
The majority of the audience felt the answer was simple—that helping the man survive was the top priority, no questions asked.
Eric Raible can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org