There are times when humans are faced with a situation in which the morality of the decision they make is difficult to judge. What is right morally for one individual may be thought of as unethical for another. In this particular scenario, an intellectual man who goes by the name Bill Jackson comes from a very poor family and does not have the money required to be able to go to medical school. Desperately in need of money, he decides to steal from his wealthy, but mean and miserly aunt, whose money is not used for any good cause. She is known as a “gold digger”, as she had married a much older man, whose wealth became hers, after his death.
Bill only intends to use the money for educational purposes; however, his way to obtain the money is immoral. Now, Bill is on a philosophical trial tried with robbery. In such a situation, determining right action is difficult; however, one must not forget that stealing is considered a crime. Therefore, Bill must be punished for his deeds. According to virtue ethicists Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas’ approach of a good person, Immanuel Kant’s definition of right action and the Buddhist perspective on life, Bill Jackson has committed an immoral, unjustifiable and unethical act.
Before considering the perspective of a virtue ethicist, it is important to first understand the meaning of virtue. Virtue is defined as “moral excellence; conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles” (dictionary. reference). A virtue ethicist would generally question the essential qualities of a good person and according to them; a good person makes moral choices guided by their good character rather than by weighing the options. There is a strong emphasis on the role of character in making moral choices.
In this situation, Bill makes a choice to steal which is not considered moral in anyone’s eyes. Furthermore, Aristotle states that “to be a good person one had to use reason to control the irrational parts of the self” (Paquette, 2002, p. 262). Bill clearly did not have the ability to control the irrational parts of the self as he let his actions be immoral. Moreover, a philosopher named Thomas Aquinas states that people could achieve perfection by using their reason to know God. With regards to this, God would not allow Bill to steal another’s possessions.
Therefore, Bill is far from perfection and lacks good character and conduct; the two most important ideas that differentiate between an ethical and unethical person. Critiques may point out that Bill is indeed a virtuous being as he wishes to help society with his medical knowledge; but, a virtuous being does not forget that his actions must be ethical. A crime is still considered a crime regardless of the circumstances. Next, understanding the concept of right action is important. Immanuel Kant is responsible for the Kantian ethics approach to right action.
This philosophical system of ethics is non-consequential; thus, choices are judged by the good will of the moral agent and not the consequence itself. Additionally, it is stated that “good will is to act on moral principles that are justified by reason” (Paquette, 2002, p. 269). Both Bill and critiques may say that his reason for acting illegally is that he is putting the money to good use; he will later benefit others with his medical services. However, this does not mean that he has the right to take what does not belong to him. Moreover, it states that one should do their duty and respect the rights of human beings.
In this situation, Bill did not do as his duty requested and did not respect the rights of a human being-his aunt. Instead, he chose to do the opposite and steal wealth that did not belong to him. Furthermore, duty is defined as what a person ought to do and that whatever a person ought to do is what any and every person should do in similar circumstances. This obviously supports the immorality of Bill’s actions as he ought not to steal and this should not be applied in any given circumstance; this act is never justifiable. Religious perspectives give humans the path to live a valuable life.
According to a religion which originated in India known as Buddhism, it is stated that “one could eliminate the suffering and desire that exists in life by following the Eightfold Path” (Paquette, 2002, p. 263). The Eightfold Path essentially consists of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Buddhists strive to achieve nirvana, which is a state of enlightenment in which desires and ambitions are extinguished and allows humans to live in harmony with one another.
Western ethics focuses on the individual choice but more importantly emphasizes the importance of relationships with others. In this situation, Bill does not follow right view, right action, and right livelihood as he steals money in order to become a doctor. Furthermore, he does not give his relationship with his aunt any importance, which is why he does not think twice about taking something of hers, which subsequently upsets her. Lastly, to do a crime such as stealing means one does not live a simple life and has not given up on his ambitions, therefore, Bill’s actions cannot be considered moral.
While critiquing this theory, some may say that there is no purpose to life, if humans give up on their ambitions or that these ideologies only affect Buddhists. However, these ideologies should be kept in mind by all humans, regardless of their religion and they must remember to make their ambitions positive and as not to affect their relationship with others or the harmony which brings everyone together. According to virtue ethicists Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas’ approach of a good person, Immanuel Kant’s definition of right action and the Buddhist perspective on life, Bill Jackson has committed an immoral, unjustifiable and unethical act.
In essence, Bill should be punished for his deeds. In this situation, he could have chosen to do any of the following: take a student loan or any other form of loan, suspend his education while he works and collects money, or if all else fails, give up on becoming a doctor and choose another career route. Either option would have been better than stealing money which does not belong to him and subsequently being punished and judged by society for committing a sinful act. Making decisions about right and wrong is an intricate concept; one must however remember that to be moral, they must be looked upon by others as so.
Otherwise, he is not as ethical as he may think he is. Works Cited Catholic District School Board Writing Partnership (Ontario), & Ontario. (2002). Philosophy: questions and theories: Course profile, grade 12, university preparation. Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Reason. (n. d. ). Virtue | Define Virtue at Dictionary. com. Dictionary. com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary. com. Retrieved November 3, 2012, from http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/virtue.
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