Ethos Education

Sherlock: The Final Problem: In what circumstances might it be right to do the wrong thing?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Consider the purpose and value of morality.
  • Understand different concepts of right and wrong.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the case for sometimes breaking the rules and doing something that is considered to be ‘wrong’.
  • Analyse a film clip, identifying the reasoning that led one character to an unexpected moral decision.
  • Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of six different approaches to making moral decisions.
  • Analyse a Christian perspective on making moral decisions, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses.
  • Synthesise learning by applying different approaches to moral decision making to a hypothetical moral dilemma.

Supporting Values Education:

The value of individual liberty recognises the right of all people to make their own decisions about right and wrong. It is based on a belief that humans are capable of applying reason and intelligence when making moral decisions. This lesson encourages students to understand different perspectives on right and wrong and to understand the basis of a Christian perspective on morality.

STARTER:

Write up the phrase ‘Rules are made to be broken’ on the board. Ask the students whether they agree or disagree with this statement. Ask them to suggest some rules which are commonly disregarded. Here are some examples:

  • Rules about speed limits on roads.
  • Rules against running in school corridors.
  • Rules against smoking in public buildings.
  • Rules against illegally downloading music or taping friends’ CDs.

Lead a discussion about whether it is right or wrong to break those rules. Under what circumstances might it be right to break a rule? Is it ever right to do something that you believe to be, in normal circumstances, wrong?

Explain that in this lesson you will be thinking about the different values that shape the way different people make moral decisions, either accepting or rejecting established rules. In particular, you are going to think about how Christians approach the subject of making moral decisions.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from Sherlock: The Final Problem (series 4, episode 3). The Final Problem is the third episode on the DVD Sherlock: Series 4 (BBC DVD, 2017). Certificate 15. Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), along with his brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) and his friend Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman) has been captured by his long-lost sister Eurus (Sian Brooke) a deranged evil genius. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the dilemma that Eurus poses for Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft.

  • Start time:       0.40.53
  • End time:         0.48.44
  • Clip length:      7 minutes and 51 seconds

The clip starts with Watson waking up. The first line is Sherlock asking, ‘How are you?’ The clip ends after the line, ‘It would waste valuable time.’

After the clip, ask the students whether they think it would have been right or wrong for either Watson or Mycroft to have shot David (Art Malik). If the students feel that killing David was a good thing (as both David and Watson asserted), why did both Mycroft and Watson struggle and ultimately fail to carry out the act?

Explain that when we think about right and wrong, our conclusions will often depend upon how we are defining right and wrong. Give out copies of the What Should I Do? worksheet and explain that the sheet summarises six different philosophical models of determining the right or wrong course of action when faced with a moral decision. Talk through the worksheet with the class, making sure that they understand the key factors of each approach to morality. Here are the six approaches:

Egoism
‘I will do what is right for me’.
Right and wrong is decided by working out what will give me the most good things and the least bad things.

Utilitarianism
‘I will do whatever gives the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people’.
Right and wrong is decided by calculating what will give the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.

Naturalism
‘I will do whatever comes naturally’.
Right and wrong is decided by working out what is natural for us as human beings; if it is natural it is right; if it is unnatural it is wrong.

Cultural Relativism
‘I will do what everyone else around me is doing’.
Right and wrong is decided by looking at the way that others in my culture are behaving and fitting in with it. This will be different for different cultures and at different times.

Emotivism
‘I will do what my emotions tell me to do’.
Right and wrong is decided by following our emotions; whatever our feelings tell us is the right thing to do.

Theism
‘I will do what God tells me to do’.
Right and wrong is decided by finding out what our creator tells us we should do.

Ask the students which of these worldviews seem to be represented in the clip. Ask the students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each of the six approaches, either working together as a whole class, or discussing in small groups and reporting back to the rest of the class.

Explain that Christianity is one example of Theism (it is worth pointing out that not all theists are Christians). Ask the students how they think a Christian would go about discovering what God wants them to do in any given situation. Draw out that the main source of authority for many Christians is the Bible – particularly the life and teaching of Jesus. Other Christians also regard the past pattern of Christian tradition (i.e. the historical practice of the Christian church), reason and personal experience as important sources of authority.

Ask the students to look up the following Bible passages and to write a short statement for each, suggesting what relevance the passage has to the issue of how Christians might make moral decisions.

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • Mark 12:28-31
  • Matthew 5:1-12
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Take feedback from the students and encourage them to discuss the validity and value of using this basis for determining right from wrong.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

As a final exercise, which could be set as a homework task, ask the students to think of a morally complex situation and to reflect upon how each of the six perspectives outlined on the worksheet might go about the task of deciding upon the right response to that situation. Students should also suggest how a Christian might respond to it, based on the Bible passages that they looked at in the lesson.

YOU WILL NEED:

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