The Ethical Dilemma in our Society

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Updated: Nov 16, 2022
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The Ethical Dilemma in our Society essay

Everyday, people observe others doing unvirtuous deeds, whether it be bullying, stealing, lying, cheating, or anything else that can be classified as bad. But what about if the person you are observing that is doing said deed happens to be a family member, or your best friend? Some people say the right thing to do is to take action regardless of who they are. Others think that you have an obligation to back them up, look the other way, and forgive them for their mistakes. The solution to this age old argument is simple; give the person a chance to correct their wrongdoings, and if they chose not to, that is when you take action and bring them to justice.

In the words of Aristotle, “most men, and men of the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify the good, or happiness, with pleasure” (Nicomachean Ethics). Majority of the time, a bad deed is done through pleasure, or desire. For example, when a group of friends go into a clothing store, and one decides to steal something, if one of the friends witness them stealing, should they intervene? On one hand, since they are all together, they all could be charged with the crime. Also, that person who is stealing put the friend who saw them do it in an uncomfortable situation. The dilemma now is, should the thief be confronted, made to return the items, and promise to repent from continuing their actions? Or should the witness pretend not to have seen the unscrupulous action and thus save them both from embarrassment from a confrontation. Consciously we should always do the right thing, irregardless of whose feelings it might hurt, because it is us who becomes damaged when we turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of others. “Performing any… corrupt activity” shouldn’t be looked past (Allen Bloom). Often times a person has a desire for an item, but does not want to wait and earn the money to buy it. Spontaneously, they decide to just take it, because the store has plenty of those, and no one will

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notice just one missing. Thieves will often justify the means to their end, to make them feel okay about the act they just committed. Likewise, they do not care who they harm by their actions.

Now comes the dilemma. If a close friend is with the theif when they preform their dubious acts, the situation becomes more complex because it no longer affects just the thief. Now a second person is involved, whether they chose to be or not. The close friend is put into a situation where they must chose to either do the right thing and stop the thief, or try to pretend they didn’t see it happen. The virtuous thing for the friend to do would be to confront their friend, and give them the opportunity to do the right thing, return the stolen items, and/or apologize to the shopkeeper. This gives the wrongdoer the chance to fix their mistake and learn what it means to do the right thing. Also, publicly confronting them may embarrass them enough, that they may be too scared to repeat their unvirtuous action.

Next time the theif is tempted to steal again, hopefully they will remember the tramatic situation they fell into when you confronted them. Thomas Aquinas argued “in the one tempted it is not, properly speaking, a fault; unless through the temptation some change is wrought in the one who is tempted; for thus is the action of the agent in the patient. And if the tempted is changed to evil by the tempter he falls into fault” (Good and Evil). What he says holds true. Everyone has temptations, that occur because of their desires and pleasures. It becomes unvirtuous when a person acts on that temptation (assuming it is a bad one). Often, during a riot, it only takes one person to break into a store and steal something, and then amidst the chaos it starts a chain reaction, and the mob mentality takes over, and soon everyone is following. Though many would argue it is better to turn that friend in and have them locked up, to pay for their crime, but often they will sit in their cell and have thoughts of bitter revenge against you, and never really spend any time contemplating their wrongful actions, which were the cause of their punishment. Either way, whether you chose to confront them or not, they will not be thinking very highly of you at that moment anyway, but if you intervene, risking your friendship, the friend may look back at that moment and appreciate your intervention in the future.

The right thing to do would always be to confront the thief so you and they can have a clear conscience against what the situation has created. Intervention is always the best medicine, and may not always cure all, but if done enough, may eventually take root and soon the good counsel will be followed. As always, it is up to the theif to change their ways and start living a good virtuous life. After all, “Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right” (Nicomachean Ethics).

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The Ethical Dilemma in Our Society. (2022, Nov 16). Retrieved from