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How Do We Resolve Moral Dilemmas?

In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup is faced with a moral dilemma when Edwin Epps, “the master,” orders him to whip Patsey. Had he refused, Solomon would also have been viciously beaten.

Should Northup have whipped Patsey, as he describes, or should he have refused (thereby risking very severe consequences to himself)? Explain your answer.

Did America's form of chattel slavery allow Epps to beat Patsey on a whim? Why, or why not?  Do such laws encourage this type of violence?

If you (like Solomon) were ordered to harm someone, risking severe personal consequences if you refused to inflict that harm, what options would you have to avoid carrying-out the order?


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