Philosophy and human good
When I was in the 6th grade, I was given an opportunity to study on a scholarship. However, for me to qualify for the scholarship I had to pass a tough test. The test was to be in form of an assignment that I was to hand in after two weeks. When my parents heard about my scholarship opportunity, they were very happy. Their happiness led to them promising me that they would do anything to ensure that I received the scholarship. This is because of the fact that they were facing some difficulties meeting my fees requirement.
When our teacher gave me the assignment, I discovered that it was above my class. When I gave my parents the assignment to look at, they discovered that it was the same assignment they did while in their second year in high school. This led to my parents and me wondering why our teacher could give a high school assignment to a 6th grade student. My parents were very principled persons and never helped me in my assignments as they considered it a form of cheating. However, this case was very different as first I was to receive a full scholarship if I passed it and the second part is that the assignments was above extremely above my standards. After thorough consultations, my father decided to assist me in doing the assignment the fact he was going against his ethical principles (Pollock, 2012). His friend at work had a high school daughter that was high honors as well, and asked for her assistance. He argued that the teacher had malicious intentions by giving an assignment above my class. Besides this, he argued that the assignment would not have any effects on my final grades as it was only aimed at making me fail so that I could not get the scholarship.
In this situation, my father applied several moral rules in assisting me to do my assignments (Copp, 2007). He argued that the teacher was in the first place morally wrong by giving a 6th grade student assignment belonging to the second year students at high school. He said that the intentions of the teacher doing that were extremely malicious as he knew that I would easily pass any assignment that belonged to my class. This is because of the fact that I was a very attentive student and I always came to class. Perhaps the teacher wanted me to fail the test so that his son who was my classmate would be given the scholarship. In our class, I used to compete with our teacher’s son for the first position and I eventually ended up coming ahead of him. I am sure that if Abraham Lincoln was in the same situation like my father he could have acted in the similar way. I eventually ended up passing the assignment and receiving the scholarship. However, I informed the teacher that I had been assisted by my neighbor who was a second year student in the neighboring high school.
While coming up with the decision to assist me in my assignment, my father used the utilitarian theory. According to this theory, something is said to be good if it brings happiness or pleasure to people. On the other hand, something is said to be bad if it brings pain or suffering to people (Hill, 1960). As result of this, my father’s actions brought about happiness to our family as I was able to receive a scholarship that I fully deserved. On the other hand, his actions did not bring about pain to any member of the society. This is because there was no other person in our class who deserved the scholarship more than me as I always came top of my class since my elementary school days.
If my father had applied the virtue theory of ethics he would not have assisted me in doing my assignment. According to this theory, something is said to be good if it cultivates traits that are culturally known to be good for example honesty and kindness. On the other hand, something is said to be bad if it cultivates traits that are traditionally known to be bad such as cowardice and dishonesty. My father’s actions cultivated dishonesty in the society. This implies that under this theory, he could have assisted me and instead left me to do the assignment on my own. If I had failed the test, I could have been honest with myself and my teacher. However, his assistance led to me getting the scholarship in unethical manner as it was a form of cheating. As a result of this, something is said to be either ethically correct or ethically wrong depending on the theory that the individual uses to approach the issue. Besides this, people’s culture also determines what is ethically correct and wrong (Copp, 2007). For instance, according to the utilitarian theory my father’s actions are ethical. This is contrary to the virtue ethics theory which says that people’s actions should be aimed at cultivating virtues that are culturally known to be good. However, my father cultivated dishonesty which is a virtue known to be culturally wrong.
Copp, D. (2007). The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hill, T. E. (1960). Contemporary ethical theories. New York: Macmillan
Pollock, J. M. (2012). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Please answer this question:::::::
This was an excellent example and you explained it well. I am curious as to whether or not you think utilitarianism is inferior to virtue ethics; utilitarianism is more “realistic” and focuses on results, virtue ethics is more “idealistic” and focuses on the way things ought to be.
One might say that virtue ethicists are unrealistic dreamers … Utilitarians are the ones who get things done! What do you think?