What Is the Right Thing to Do?

What Is the Right Thing to Do?

This assignment defines ethical systems while applying them to a specific dilemma. Complete the “What Is the Right Thing to Do?” document by doing the following:

Read Corrie ten Boom’s dilemma provided in the document.
Think about what you would have done in her situation: lie or tell the truth.
For each of the three prompts in the document, follow the word count guidance provided in each specific section (700-800 words total).
Be sure to thoughtfully compose your responses.




What Is the Right Thing to Do?

Read the following ethical dilemma and then answer the dilemma according to the following ethical views: utilitarianism and relativism.

Dilemma: Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian woman who, with her family, harbored Jews in her home from Nazi police during World War II. Imagine yourself in her position as Nazi police stand at your doorstep asking if there are any Jews in your house. Your two options are either to tell a committed, brazen lie or to tell the truth (for the purposes of this assignment, things like remaining silent or faking an illness or anything besides lying would raise suspicions and result in the death of the Jews in your home). What do you do, lie or tell the truth?

Use and properly cite at least one resource presented in this course and one additional academic source when responding to the prompts.

Be sure to thoughtfully compose your responses.

  1. Utilitarianism: In 200-225 words, define the ethical system and apply it to the dilemma.
Utilitarian ethical theory is a consequentialist theory that focuses on the result to determine whether an action is ethical or unethical. The utilitarian theory states that the most ethical choice is the one that benefits the majority. The theory therefore supports decisions that yield most good and opposes actions that cause harm or unhappiness. A decision might seem wrong in the eyes of public, but judged right by the utilitarian’s if it benefits the greater public. Utilitarian theory is concerned with the consequence of the action and not the action itself (Klenk, 2021). The theory emphasizes making the decision that results in most pleasure, happiness or contentment. If an action drifts from this, then it’s wrong. Therefore, the nature of the action does not affect morality.

In the case of Carrie Boom, who hid Jews from the invading Nazis, the utilitarian theory considers her action of hiding the Jews and lying to the Nazis ethical. Boom lied to the Nazi that there are no Jews in her home. Based on the utilitarian theory, lying to the Nazi yielded greatest good to most people than telling the truth. By lying to the Nazi, Boom saved her life and the Jews from the Nazi. In addition, the Jews were happy because they had a safe place to hide and their lives were no longer in danger. On the other hand, if she had been honest with the Nazis, she would have made the Nazi happy, but her life and that of refugees would have been in danger. Therefore, telling the truth would have yielded the least good compared to telling a lie. Therefore, Carrie Boom made the right and ethical decision according to the utilitarian theory.


  1. Relativism: In 200-225 words, define the ethical system and apply it to the dilemma.       
The relativism theory states that morality is relative. The theory proposes that what is right varies with various cultural aspects. Therefore, what might be considered unethical in one culture might be considered ethical in another. Cultural beliefs and values determine ethics. There are no standards for ethical relativism. There are no standards that are applicable to all cultures (Wreen, 2018). There are no morals standards that all cultures must abide. Ethical relativism faces criticism from those who believe certain underlying principles exist in all cultures. For instance, murder is something condemned by all cultures. Murder is considered unethical universally because it is condemned by all cultures. Therefore, certain things are plainly wrong regardless of certain cultures’ practices.

In the case of Carrie Boom, ethical relativism considers her actions to be ethical if they were influenced by her cultural believes and experiences. Carrie Boom was a Dutch.  Her culture did not like the Nazis due to the hostile treatment towards people of Dutch culture. Therefore, in her culture, it was considered right to lie to the hostile Nazi police. She did everything she could to save the lives of the Jews who the Nazis were hunting. She was willing to risk her own life to save the Jews. Her experience could also have shaped her decision. As a Dutch, there is a possibility she has experienced a similar situation of hostility from Nazi police as the Jewish refugees. As a result, she understood the pain the Jewish were going through, thus would have done anything to save them. There was also a possibility that Bloom’s decision was influenced by her religion. Many religions support helping those in need and protecting human life. Therefore, ethical relativism considers her action ethical as her actions saved the life of the innocent Jews who were about to be butchered because of their race.


  1. Personal Response: In 300-350 words, explain how you would answer this dilemma, and why. You should mention which ethical system you hold, and explain how that system leads you to your answer. You are not restricted to utilitarianism or relativism—any normative ethical theory is an option.
If I was in a similar situation, I would lie to the Nazis and save the lives of the Jews whose life depends on the decision I make. This is because the situation entailed inhuman treatment of the Jewish and it perpetrated racism. Besides, my personal and religious believes condemns acts of endangering human life. Therefore, I would rather risk my life and save the many Jews hiding in my house. I know the consequences of my decision to hide the Jews. However, I am willing to take the risk because of my own belief that it is better to do good even though it is an offense to the authorities, rather than cause harm to human life. Besides, lying to the Nazi would yield most god than telling the truth. Telling the truth would cause most harm. My decision would be based on the utilitarian theory that states that a decision is ethical if the consequence is for the greater good (Smart, 2020). Saving the lives of innocent Jews is more important than telling the truth to the authorities. If I lie about their nonexistence, I will save their lives. If I tell the truth, they will be killed, and my life will also be in danger. Besides, telling the truth to the authorities means that I support their immoral actions by helping them perpetrate racism. Therefore, this is the right and moral decision to make in accordance with the utilitarian theory.






Klenk, M. (2021). The influence of situational factors in sacrificial dilemmas on utilitarian moral judgments. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1-33. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13164-021-00547-4

Smart, J. J. C. (2020). Utilitarianism and its applications. In New Directions in Ethics (pp. 24-41). Routledge. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781003031475-2/utilitarianism-applications-smart

Wreen, M. (2018). What Is Moral Relativism?. Philosophy, 93(3), 337-354. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/philosophy/article/abs/what-is-moral-relativism/F14B02FDE6ACF72A8D47F9906458920C




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