Navigating Ethical Seas: A Philosophical Exploration of the Lifeboat Dilemma through Plato, Meno, and Aristotle

Published: 2024-01-30
Navigating Ethical Seas: A Philosophical Exploration of the Lifeboat Dilemma through Plato, Meno, and Aristotle
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Ethics Plato
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1031 words
9 min read


The lifeboat situation indeed needs to establish causes, effects, and value or worth and significance. Deciding who to save out of the individuals in the boat is hard since it is about determining these people's fate which can be made wrongly with less information. The paper aims to discuss the possible response to the dilemma by discussing virtues and happiness by philosophers Plato, Meno, and Aristotle. Through achievements and showing how Aristotle's view supports the solution to the lifeboat dilemma and justice, provides the opposition, critique, and solution opponent theory, objection, and conclusion.

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Solutions to the Issues

Saving six people out of ten involves responses to the situation, which varies since McKenna (2012) stated that different courses of action result in various consequences that are either positive or negative. One of the responses is to save six weeks pregnant since, based on Aristotle's view of virtue and happiness suggested that in various habits, an individual acts well. Thus, choosing the woman who thinks to be six weeks pregnant in this situation, she is unique, and happiness or goodness involves moral actions. Saving the woman will bring good and happiness since leaving her, there will be deaths of more than one life, and Aristotle's view of virtue will be against the act.

The two young adults who recently married should be saved since that will mean happiness and good for more than one person, and they will have a chance to procreate. The senior citizen who has fifteen grandchildren will be saved since it reflects the good and happiness of the many, bearing in mind that the grandmother has a large family. The elementary school teacher should be saved since the function performed by society is unique to educating others. If the nurse becomes saved, the nurse's function in the community is unique, and it will mean happiness to many in society by saving lives. Finally, keeping the captain would mean happiness to the others since the function performed by the community is unique.

The other response to the solution is based on the philosopher Plato to save two thirteen-year-old twins instead of the nurse since it will mean knowing the good and doing the good as keeping the two will result in happiness and be useful to many. They can be able to procreate, and the other five in solution one expect the nurse. In my argument, philosopher Aristotle's theory is essential for saving lives compared to that of philosopher Plato's discussion of the virtues that are crucial elements of the good life in society's context.

Opposing View Point

Philosopher Plato argues that "to know the good is to do the good," but according to Meno, who argued "a desire for beautiful things joint with power to attain those beautiful things," is to know the good and do the good. Plato argued that doing the wrong thing is mistaken for a good thing (Silverman, 2014). Therefore, Plato's position of the good being a requirement of the good life is not obvious. Compared to Philosopher Aristotle, provided an ethical schema of metaphysical view, social view, and humanity, individual ethical responsibilities determined by elements such as uniqueness, functions, and happiness. Despite Plato's position not being evident on virtue and happiness, Socrates reflects that knowledge and virtue benefit individuals (Kraut, 2017). Thus virtue is shown to be the knowledge that is learned. Therefore, choosing right and wrong depends on the personal experience of goodness. Hence, at this point, deciding who to save depends on the individual's knowledge and not the uniqueness, function, and happiness in society's context.

Critique and Solution

The flaw of Aristotle's view of virtue is that he disagrees with Plato's persistence and the idea of epistemology and metaphysics being prerequisites to understanding our good. Epistemology involves understanding knowledge and difference from belief and how knowledge becomes defensible and right in the eyes of virtue and happiness (Silverman, 2014). Metaphysics consists of examining reality and nature (Silverman, 2014). Therefore, goodness is seen as the knowledge taught to act reasonably to make achievement and justice. Plato's view questions Aristotle's theory as a different discussion of a "reason" makes it difficult to simple definition to cover others since Aristotle believed that understanding of the good would depend on the personality's circumstances (Bommarito, 2018).

Based on the scenario solution, one would involve saving the six people and leaving others to die. Uniqueness, happiness, and functions contribute to such a selection of the six people. The uniqueness of the individual from others, and functions performed in the society that contribute to uniqueness, bring justice. Aristotle argued that virtue is not about training in epistemology and metaphysics, but reason in behavior and actions. His view supports an effective solution to the lifeboat issue, as he mentioned that being reasonable involves avoiding dangerous behavior.

Objections to the Aristotle FlawDifficulties in defining the word "reason" due to various definitions discussed by Aristotle contribute to the flaw of his view of virtue and happiness (Shau, 2018). But his idea of "reason" is acceptable in the context of choice in social, political, and ethics, equating it with moderation such that moderate is preferred over extreme; hence, the reason is reason in action and behavior (Bommarito, 2018). Therefore, through his explanation, the parts of man's nature are shown, including the uniqueness, happiness, and functions, which provide true happiness and benefits to society when making good things.

Conclusion of the Thesis Defence

Based on the above scenario of the lifeboat dilemma, it is shown that philosopher Aristotle's view concerning the problem of life-saving is more outstanding compared to that of philosopher Plato. Despite the objection of difficulties in providing a simple definition of reason due to the many different meanings in his work, his view remains whole.


Bommarito, N. (2018). Modesty and humility.

Kraut, R. (2017). "Plato." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.

McKenna, M. (2012). Conversation & responsibility. Oup Usa. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740031.001.0001

Shau, K. (2018). Aristotle on Happiness: An Analysis. Retrieved from

Silverman, A. (2014). "Plato's Middle Period Metaphysics and Epistemology." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.

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Navigating Ethical Seas: A Philosophical Exploration of the Lifeboat Dilemma through Plato, Meno, and Aristotle. (2024, Jan 30). Retrieved from

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