Moreover, caring for her mother, the other option, would surely: a) create a feeling of being "unfulfilled" which brings with it depression and resentfulness; b) leave her with nothing to look forward to but the dark day when her mother actually passes away; and c) realize after a short time that she is not "a Mother Teresa" and that her live would be diminished (Stuart, 25).
What does Stuart believe is the right choice for Alice? Stuart asserts that the virtue that carries the most weight in this instance is having Alice care for her mother. Giving up her career for her mother would outweigh the "…virtues of perseverance, love of truth…and self-knowledge" should she decide to go forward with her dissertation (26).
What Stuart also mentions -- and this is a prime reason for this writer to believe Alice should find a competent person to be a caregiver for her mother and march on with her research toward that elusive PhD -- is that if Alice did sacrifice her career, she might be doing it purely out of fear that others would disapprove of her abandoning her mother (26). In other words, what Alice needed to decide is this: if she leaves scholarship and becomes a caregiver full time for Marion is she doing it for the right reasons? Is she being nagged in her own conscience and does she worry that the decision to stick with mom is based not on altruism but rather on a sense of moral obligation?
Does she believe that by staying with mom she is really nothing more than a scapegoat? Will her decision to stay with Marion open the door to being seen as making an "excessive self-sacrifice" -- that close friends will say she is living her life through her mother's life?
Notwithstanding right or wrong answers to any of the above questions, philosophy professor Lisa Rivera writes that some believe "…morality can -- and perhaps always does -- require moral sacrifices" (Rivera, 2007, p. 70). On the other hand, others insist that a moral requirement is not necessary in terms of deciding what to do in a given situation. In utilitarianism there are solutions to the problem of moral sacrifice that allows the person "…to preserve what we most care about and still satisfy moral requirements" (Rivera, 70).
Rivera goes on to say that while making a moral sacrifice should have a positive effect on a person's integrity, it is hard to explain why -- in this case, Alice comes to mind -- individuals must give up what "we care most about or even risk our lives to promote an ethical end" (70). The individual who always allows morality to "…trump a person's central concerns when the two conflict" fits in perfectly to the idea that "…profound sacrifices are sometimes necessary"; however, those sacrifices may well put up a roadblock for the individual's "pursuit of [the] good in problematic ways" (Rivera, 70). Moreover, in the case of Alice, making a moral sacrifice (which she should not do) could do harm to her previously upbeat evaluation of her own character; in other words, by doing what is "right" she would be harming herself and her future.
In conclusion, there can be strong arguments on either side of the issue of making moral sacrifices. But it is the position of this paper that since -- as was pointed out in the beginning of this paper -- morality is a very flexible concept and is often determined by how an individual evaluates the choices, there is little fulfillment in becoming a scapegoat as Alice might have become. Long after Alice's mother has been sent to her grave, by moving forward with her studies Alice will have achieved not only a high honor by getting her PhD, but she will have become a force of enlightened knowledge for countless students and philosophers. Happiness is of course relative, but the pleasure and happiness Alice will receive through her research -- because it empowers others who will certainly come into contact with her work -- is immeasurable and ongoing.
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Mautner, Thomas. "Act-Utilitarianism." The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://utilitarianism.org. 2008.
Rivera, Lisa. "Sacrifices, Aspirations and Morality: Williams Reconsidered." Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 10.1 (2007): 69-87.
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