For the dilemma enthusiast in you, here is a list of inspiring articles and news items that elaborate the significance of dilemmas and clarify why we should design with dilemmas.

When Virtue Destroys you: Rousseau on How our Emotions are Essential for Leading a Meaningful Life on IAI TV.

An entirely modern form of tragedy is born here. Julie is caught not between two conflicting norms, as in classical tragedy, but between an “auto­nomously” embraced precept – the unacceptability of intentionally causing one’s parents un­happiness – and a feeling then of contested normative force but nonetheless of crucial significance for the coherence of her self-identity.

Essay by Alessandro Ferrara | Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Rome.

Dilemmas are intimately intertwined with ethics and morality. New Scientist recently published and article on the 10 Biggest Moral Dilemmas in Science.

Minimising suffering. Maximising happiness. Saving the planet. Looking after future generations. Worthy goals all, but what happens when they come into conflict?

(Many thanks to friend & colleague Jay Yoon for sharing.)

This short movie by Aeon Magazine is the perfect visual embodiment of being in a dilemma:

Would you turn away, or take the plunge? Captivating and hilarious, watching the tortuous process as divers psych themselves up to jump from a ten-metre diving board offers an ingeniously simple glimpse into the human mind. 

Director: Maximilien Van Aertryck, Axel Danielson | Producer: Axel Danielson, Erik Hemmendorff

In contemporary work environments, many people struggle with the same dilemma: how to maintain work-life balance? Thus, many institutions, including universities, started paying more attention to the topic, helping employees generate and maintain strategies to better manage their time and resources. However, Barbara Seeber and Maggie Berg argue that the challenge seems to require a mindset change instead of implementing short-term strategies that reinforce the corporate model of education. They make an interesting analogy between slow food movement and slow scholarship:

Distractedness and fragmentation characterise contemporary life. In order to protect the intellectual and pedagogic life of the university, we need to create opportunities to think and to shift our sense of time.This might mean getting away from having everything scheduled down to the minute. We can’t do our best work if we are frantic.

Barbara Seeber is professor of English language and literature at Brock University (Ontario, Canada). Maggie Berg is professor of English at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada).

Read more on Aeon Magazine.

Christina Starmans’ essay on moral judgement brings a new perspective to how we deal with temptations. For a couple of years during my research, I investigated the psychology of self-control dilemmas. These are specific dilemmas that involve conflicts between long-term goals (such as academic success) and temptations (such as going to the beach with friends instead of studying). Starmans asks an important question related to these dilemmas:

How does the inner struggle with temptation affect how our actions are viewed by others? Who is the better person: the one who acts morally while tempted or the one who is never tempted at all?

Christina Starmans is a postdoctoral associate in psychology at Yale University. 

Read more on Aeon Magazine.

David Berliner’s essay on how contradictions – conflicting thoughts that underlie our dilemmas – make us human and inspire creativity. In this essay, Berliner elaborately describes the necessity of contradictions in the human psyche and cites interesting examples of contradictory thoughts and behaviors from many fields including philosophy and anthropology. Most interestingly, Berliner notes:

While most humans struggle to maintain a sense of psychological unity, contradictions produce destabilising breaches in the self. Whether conscious or unconscious, these fissures nourish creative inspiration, which can be interpreted as a way to resolve or sublimate internal oppositions.

David Berliner is professor of anthropology at Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Read more on Aeon Magazine.

One of the most controversial names in psychology, if not the most, is Sigmund Freud. Despite controversies, Freud revealed a lot about our inner lives. At the center of his theories was the concept of inner conflict. The Book of Life contains an essay on Freud, which states the following:

Freud first put forward a theory about this inner conflict in his essay “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning,” written in 1911. There he described the “pleasure principle,” which drives us towards pleasurable things like sex and cheeseburgers and away from unpleasurable things like drudgery and annoying people. Our lives begin governed by this instinct alone; as infants we behave more or less solely according to the pleasure principle. As we grow older, our unconscious continues to do the same, for “the unconscious is always infantile.”

Read more in the Book of Life.

Steve Fleming’s essay on the neuroscience of decision-making explains why it takes time to make difficult decisions. Dilemmas are often considered as uncomfortable experiences; however, they serve an important function: they are how our brains collect more information in order to make informed choices. Fleming emphasizes:

Quick decision-making might seem bold, but the agony of indecision is your brain’s way of making a better choice

Steve Fleming is a Principal Research Associate at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, where he leads the Metacognition Group.

Read more on Aeon Magazine.

A set of entertaining videos from National Geographic that perfectly explain the complexity of moral dilemmas.

One of these intriguing videos is called Madam:

A madam of a successful brothel chooses to support the local Sisters of Charitable Deeds orphanage. She was raised by the nuns and wants to repay the debt. But the sisters are blissfully unaware that the much needed donations are coming from a house of ill repute. What if the sisters were to discover the truth? Should they refuse the money?

Ambivalence is a unique term that perfectly explains the emotional side of dilemmas. In his book titled “On ambivalence: The problems and pleasures of having it both ways” Kenneth Weisbrode explores the condition of ambivalence with examples from various fields such as literature, philosophy, and politics. Weisbrode beautifully summarizes the condition of ambivalence as:

Ambivalence lies at the core of who we are. It is something more subtle, and more devastating, than human frailty. Weaknesses can be remedied. Ambivalence comes, rather, from too much human ambition. Desire begets dissatisfaction, and vice versa. Optimization becomes a fetish. Wanting the “best” means that we must have both or even all and are reluctant to give up any option lest we pull up the roots of our desire. That is why ambivalence is so hard to confront, understand, or master. And why it can be so disastrous.

Kenneth Weisbrode is a writer living in Ankara, Turkey. Read more on ambivalence.

Do you have any news items that can be added here? Share it with me now!