Written by Betsy Abraham Saturday, 03 August 2013 00:00
Is killing ever justified? When is it right to break a promise? When does altruism become harmful?
These are some of the ethical questions Westbury author Arthur Dobrin asks readers in his latest book, The Harder Right. In 13 fictional short stories, Dobrin presents situations meant to challenge readers to consider what they would do in morally conflicting situations.
One such story is “The Harder Right” in which an American soldier in Afghanistan is forced to decide whether to let three innocent girls go, or kill them because they might compromise the position of his troops. Another, titled “Shila” follows a girl who takes her ethical principles to the end — first deciding to become a vegetarian, then a vegan, then giving away most of her income, and then donating her kidney—never knowing when to draw the line.
The stories are inspired from newspaper articles, different life stories and Dobrin’s imagination. He has been using them in the ethics classes he teaches at Hofstra University for several years, and after seeing the positive response and lively discussions they incited, finally decided to publish them.
The book is great for book clubs and there are questions for each story at the back of the book which are designed to not only challenge readers to decide whether they agree with the character’s course of actions, but why.
“Part of the discussion should be you shouldn’t jump to easy conclusions,” Dobrin says. “And when you do have a position you’re taking, be willing to engage in a discussion where someone’s willing to justify why they believe that.”
Dobrin says that people are constantly presented with ethical decisions, where there are discrepancies between what they say they value and what they actually do.
“We always (encounter) conflicting loyalties or principles. The easy thing is when it’s right and wrong. But most of the things we deal with are not like that,” Dobrin says. “One of
the things I think the stories do is raise people’s awareness as to what an ethical problem is. It raises people’s awareness and helps them clarify what their values are.”
The book is designed to challenge people to read actively, and Dobrin says he has learned quite a few things throughout the writing process.
“There’s always a new way to see things,” Dobrin says. “People who read it have different insights as to what’s going on. You know the right thing to do, and sometimes you have a conflict between the right thing and values you have.”
Dobrin has written over 20 books on ethics and morality and also writes a blog for Psychology Today. The Harder Right is currently available on Amazon.com