The Lion King tells the story of a young cub named Simba, his birth and way of life, and the moral dilemma’s he faces since his fathers death. The story takes place in the Pride Lands, where a lion rules as king over the other animals. This lion is Simba’s father, King Mufasa with his wife Queen Sarabi. A mandrill named Rafiki presents Simba, who is a newborn cub at this time, to the animals of Pride Rock. Simba’s uncle Scar, who desires the throne for himself, leads Simba into his first initial moral dilemma. Scar does this by making the Elephant Graveyard, a place where King Mufasa forbade Simba to go, sound alluring, dark and mysterious. Simba, being the curious cub that he was, decided to defy his fathers warnings and take Nala with him to discover for himself what the Elephant Graveyard was like. Simba visits the graveyard, and is in danger when Mufasa comes to his aid, but finds himself at the end of a cliff which falls directly below to the wild stampede that Scar has created. Mufasa saves his son but is left clinging to the edge of a cliff, which results in Scar flinging him into the stampede below and he faces his death. Simba is convinced by Scar that he himself was responsible for his father’s death and goes into exile. Scar informs the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed in the stampede, and that he is assuming the throne as the next in line.
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Simba is found unconscious by Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat-warthog duo who adopt and raise the cub. When Simba has grown into an adult he is discovered by Nala. Nala then tells him that Scar has turned the Pride Lands into a barren wasteland; she asks Simba to return and take his place as king. Once back at Pride Rock, Simba (with Timon, Pumbaa and Nala) is horrified to see the condition of the Pride Lands. Scar tells the pride that Simba was responsible for Mufasa’s death and corners Simba at the edge of Pride Rock. As Simba dangles over the edge of Pride Rock, Scar whispers to Simba that he killed Mufasa. Enraged, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing him to admit the truth to the pride. Scar blames the hyenas for Mufasa’s death, but Simba orders Scar to go into exile. Scar pretends to leave but turns to attack Simba, resulting in a final duel. Simba triumphs over his uncle by flipping him over a low cliff. The film concludes with the Pride Lands turning green with life again and Rafiki presenting Simba and Nala’s newborn cub.
Simba faces many moral dilemmas in this story, however the most significant one that he has to overcome is returning to Pride Rock after he believes that he is the reason that his father has died.
Background Information about Moral Dilemma
As mentioned before, Scar has led Simba to believe that he is the reason for his father’s death. In some aspects, it can be seen that Simba may have been an influencing factor to his father’s death, since he deliberately disobeys him by going to Elephant Graveyard. The conscious decision that Simba made to defy his fathers orders brings notice to the fact that if Simba was accustomed to listening to what he has been told, his father ultimately would not have died. Despite this fact, the decision Scar made to let his own brother fall to his death can only be his fault. Putting influencing factors aside, Simba is innocent.
Three Options for Dilemma
First option: Mufasa should discipline Simba more, and enforce the rules.
Second option: Simba should obey his father’s orders, since he is mature enough to be able to differ from right and wrong.
Third option: Scar should experience the benefits of being in the royal family without any of the responsibility directed upon him.
Reasoning for Pursuing Each Option
The first option for this dilemma would be for Mufasa to realize that his brother means him harm since he is visibly jealous from the beginning. If Mufasa realized this, than he could make sure that Simba would listen to his orders because he would enforce them rather than being a lenient father. This option should be pursued, because then Simba would never go to the Elephant Graveyard, and essentially would not fall as the victim to Scar’s plan to gain the throne. In addition, Mufasa would be able to sustain life in the Pride Lands, and watch over his entire kingdom and family with no threat from his brother. The second option would be for Simba to be a more obedient child. In both cases, when Scar leads Simba into danger, Simba ultimately carried out Scar’s plan. The first time, when Scar told Simba about the Elephant Graveyard, he made it sound mysterious, but he also casually told Simba not to go there. Scar knew that Simba would still go, because of his disobedient behaviour, putting not only himself in danger, but Nala too. This is seen another time, when Scar tells Simba to stay put on an island that would have put him out of harms way if he didn’t move to the center of the land where the anticipated stampede would take place. The third option for this dilemma would be for Scar to come to the realization that family bonds should stay stronger than material wealth and status. If Scar realized this, than he could have the benefits of being the king’s brother, without any of the responsibility, which ultimately would benefit him as well. This is another option to be pursued because then Pride Rock would be able to sustain itself without the hyenas invading the territory. Simba would never be sent into exile bearing the guilt that is not his to begin with, and he would have a father figure to guide him into maturity.
What the Character Decides
Simba eventually decides to return to Pride Rock after his exile, after Rafiki, Nala and most importantly, the spirit of his father convinces him to take what is rightfully his.
Relation to Ethical Stances
A) Classical Ethics: Aristotle
When looking at classical ethics, Aristotle is seen as the father of the field of logic. He was the first to develop a formalized system for reasoning and he observed that the validity of any argument can be determined by its structure rather than its content. This being the case, I believe that Aristotle would approve of Simba’s decision to return to the Pride Lands. For example, in his work in ethics and politics, Aristotle identifies the highest good with intellectual virtue and states that a moral person is one who conducts certain virtues based on reasoning. In addition, Aristotle’s emphasis on good reasoning supports Simba’s decision of returning to Pride Rock as the rightful king, so he can sustain life and essentially restore order and normality for the animals of the kingdom.
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C) Modern Ethics: Utilitarianism
In modern ethics, Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its ability in providing happiness or pleasure among all present beings. When Nala asked Simba to return to Pride Rock, she had the happiness of the entire kingdom in her mind. If Simba returned as the rightful king, and fell in place of his father, she knew that it would benefit all except Scar and the hyenas. The good of the majority and of herself and Simba conquers Scar’s happiness of ruling a kingdom. Therefore, philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, who was an influential contributor to this ideology, would approve of my character’s decision. This is because Simba’s moral worth of an action, which is returning to a place he thought was forbidden for him, is determined by the outcome which is essentially saving Pride Rock and it’s inhabitants.
D) Contemporary Ethics: Determinism
Determinism is the philosophical view that every event, including human cognition, behaviour, decision, and action, is causally determined by prior events. It is, in essence, the view that one’s life is predetermined before one is even born. This can be seen as a cause and events type of scenario. Simba’s father, Mufasa, was the king of the Pride Lands, however due to his untimely death by the paws of his brother; his ruling came to a short end. This being stated, Simba is the rightful king that is next in line, as the royal status descends from the first newborn, however Scar made it seem as though Simba had died as well. Scar’s attempt only backfired, because as seen from the past generations, Simba is meant to be king no matter what. Since this is a cause and event situation, and from a Determinists point of view, it can be seen that the cause of Mufasa’s death would lead Simba to be the new king, and this had been put into effect when Nala discovered Simba unintentionally.
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