S4 Cover work – Moral Philosophy Recap

This clip shows a Captain in the British Navy in the Second World War. He is forced to make a difficult decision. As part of a convoy containing many ships he must decide whether to drop depth charges killing some allied sailors who are known to many of his on crew. To decide to save these men would be to risk the lives of every other seaman in the convoy…


1. Why is the Captain’s decision so difficult?

2. Why do you think the Captain makes the decision he did? Was he right?

3. What sort of moral philosophy is underlying this action? Why?

4. What do you think Kant would have claimed was the right thing to do (think duty, moral absolutes, universalisability)?

5. What ‘Duties’ are involved in this decision? Do they conflict?

Watch the second clip:


1. Is the Captain a murderer? Why/why not?

2. Does the action become more or less ‘right’ if the U-boat was not where they though it was? Explain your answer.

3. Do you find Kant’s approach or that of the Utilitarian more satisfactory in this case? Why?

4. What is moral luck? How does it fit in with this situation?

5. The Captains of the other ships recommend he drink away his ‘thoughts’. How did you feel when you heard them suggest this? What role does your conscience play in determining what is ‘right’?