Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lonesome Stranger

One of the critiques of utilitarianism that we talked about in class I found very interesting. It was called the lonesome stranger. Here’s the idea of it. You are a sheriff in a town. There is criminal that remains on the loose that the town really wants captured. They are going to riot if he is not captured and persecuted by the law. So far there have been no leads whatsoever and the town is going into unrest. A lone stranger wanders into town. He has no family or other acquaintance. The question is whether you are morally obligated to frame the stranger as the criminal in order to ensure the town doesn’t riot. According to act utilitarianism this is morally okay because in this situation framing the stranger would create the greatest benefit. However if you are going by rule utilitarianism then it would unjust to because it would go against the rules of justice which are meant to benefit society. Honesty it’s hard to say which would be better to do. Many agree it is okay to tell a lie to safe someone but not at the expense of another’s life. At the same things like this have been done many times before right under our noses. People will often use the term justice to vindicate harsh and unnecessary action. How will we know what is right and wrong when the people at the top of society decide what justice is? Are they helping us and how many have they unjustly sacrificed to do so? To me this dilemma is truly not only something that challenges but also disturbs our views on morality and justice.

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