The and good reasoning, when assessing right or
The ability of an agent to exercise logical and good reasoning, when assessing right or wrong behaviour can be defined as morality. It comes from society’s need for the regulation of civil life in order to prevent chaos, create harmony between people and ensure fairness (morality, n.d). In this essay, the focus of analysis will be placed on the morality of actions carried out by prison officers in a controversial case, based on a real-life prison fire that took the lives of over a dozen prisoners. Some of the prisoners were responsible for starting the fire and as a result prison officers failed to contain the fire and save their lives. Although many speculate that the officers’ failure was intentional and that they had played a role in influencing the behaviour of inmates. The ethical complication that arises from the dilemma is whether the prison officers actions were vicious and can such treatment of inmates become normalized. However, throughout this essay, the main question that focus will be placed on answering is whether the officers had intention saving the inmates. Virtue Ethics is the normative theory chosen to the best answer such questions, and provide a solution to problems of this nature. Although many might argue that ethical theories like deontology or utilitarianism would best resolve this dilemma, Virtues Ethics is the chosen as the best ethical theory because, it does not have a fixed set of rule to follow, which leaves room for the consideration of circumstance and the interest of the agent.On Thursday, March 4th, 2016, South American country, Guyana experienced its most catastrophic prison fire to ever occur in the capital city’s “overpacked” main prison. This prison was built to hold approximately 600 inmates but for years it has housed close a thousand inmates (“16 killed”, March 03, 2016). In addition to overpopulation, inmates at Camp street prison have been exposed to unhygienic and harsh living conditions within the prison (Fraser, June 10, 2016). It is suspected that the prolong endurance of this situation had led the inmate to behave in such a manner, as reported by Fraser. The fire was caused by the lighting of mattresses by protesting inmates after their cells were raided. Apparently, prison officers had confiscated 19 cell phones and narcotics from inmates on Wednesday afternoon. In retaliation, the prisoners lit several small fires that evening in the capital offence section of the building which held 68 inmates. With prompt response from the fire department, each fire was put out and the entire prison was placed on lockdown. However, the following day the prison returned to a state unrest as officers attempted to transfer some of the prisoners from that section of the building. A total nine fires were started (News Source Guyana, March 03, 2016). According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Inmates reported that “when the fire began, the door to their prison block was locked. …..inmates called for the door to be opened, tried to break down a wall leading to another division in the prison, and attempted to douse the fire themselves, but there was no water coming to the facility. Inmates claimed that rather than being assisted, canisters of tear gas were thrown into the burning prison block, forcing them to the ground and impeding them from escaping” (may 11, 2016). As a result, seventeen inmates were killed and eight were injured. In reports by Kaieteur news, surviving inmates claimed that the officers on duty that day abandon their duties and allowed the inmates to burn. They also claimed that prior to the incident, officers have been ill-treating the inmates (March 4, 2016).The ethical issue at stake in this dilemma is a conflict of duties and interest and the creation of harm without equal consideration. The prison officers had to choose between saving the inmates which is their duty or allowing them to burn for reasons which may have been in their interest and the interest the public. The officers most likely thought of any reason why they should not save the inmates. Some of these reasons may have presented themselves as internal questions like why save murders and whether or not the world would be better without them. On the other hand, they may have decided not to save the inmates because they were fearful of losing their lives while trying to save criminals from a fire they started. These officers probably believed that for their own safety and the safety of the public, they should let them burn. The prison officer understood that it is their duty to save the inmates, however, what if while saving them some escape as consequence and cause harm to the public. In addition to that, the officers may have reasoned that if the inmates escape they will have to catch them and they will be blamed for their escape. Therefore, they may have decided that it is easier to let them burn.Morally all three theories would find this not permissible. Even though Virtue Ethics doesn’t condemn the act itself, it is not permissible in the eyes of a virtue ethicist because the reasoning behind the agent actions is selfish and not virtuous. A Deontologist would argue it is not permissible because the officers carried out this act with the intention to save themselves while being fully aware of the rules they are breaking (not respecting the inmate’s human rights). In addition to this, the officer had did not fulfil their duties of protecting the inmates. Both the Utilitarian and Consequentialist would agree that the consequences of the officer’s actions will be negative outcomes. A Utilitarian would argue that allowing the prisoners to burn decreases the overall happiness because these prisoners have family and friends who will be in pain and a price cannot be placed on the value of human lives in this case.Virtue Ethics is chosen as the best normative theory to solve this dilemma because it focuses on the role of character and virtues in morality, rather than acting because it is doing one’s duty (deontology) or acting in order to bring about good consequences and maximize happiness (utilitarianism) (Hursthouse & Pettigrove, 2003). According to an Aristotelian, to achieve happiness, a human being must strive throughout his/her whole life to possess all virtues in order have a good moral character. In Virtue Ethics, there is no such thing as doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Therefore, the internal justification a person gives for carrying out an act is what determines their morality and not the act itself. There are no rigid rules on what is right or wrong. For these reasons, Virtue Ethics was chosen as the best normative ethical theory to solve this dilemma.In this dilemma, a virtuous person would have not only saved the inmates but would have also treated them better because it is the right and virtuous thing to do. An agent who is virtuous knows it is the right thing to do, so they do it without internal debates or second thoughts. They would justify this action is because the prisoners are still people and a good person would save them despite the fact that they placed themselves in that situation. They would have also done it because it is the kind and courageous thing to do. A non-virtuous person can also decide to save the inmates, however, their justification for doing so maybe for the wrong reasons. They might do it because they want to be seen as kind and heroic in the eyes of the public or because they will feel bad if they don’t or for some sort of reward. This kind of justification is not virtuous, immoral and not permissible. An agent that can be classified as vicious would not save the inmates or treat them well because they have no temptation to do the right thing and their justify for letting the inmates burn would be reasons like believing it is better for mankind and that they are serving justice for those who were killed by the inmate, without damaging their own character. Therefore, in this case, the officers can be deemed as vicious agents because they played a role in influencing the inmates to start the fire. Based on each report given, the officers are not responsible for the fire itself but because the way they treated the inmates even before the incident, they had created the circumstances that lead to the deaths of seventeen and injuries of eight. In fact, the played a role in preventing the inmates from saving themselves and for these reasons they are guilty. In this case, a Deontologist would use the categorical imperative as a test to solve this dilemma. The categorical imperative according to Kant is to “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Kant is basically saying that as political animals we have all have moral obligations that are necessary in all circumstances and are not dependent on a person’s urges. For these reasons, an agent can’t lie, cheat or kill because these are not the kind of things that are justifiable to others in the same universal way. If these actions were permissible anyone who wants to make exceptions for themselves would be expected to do so whenever they please. Instead, people would be expected to lie, cheat and kill in all cases when it suited them. If this were the case, it would become impossible for anyone to achieve their planned goal.With this in mind, a deontologists solution to this dilemma would be arguing that the officers’ actions are not morally permissible because they have violated the categorical imperative. They didn’t fulfil their duty and violated the liberty of the inmates. They treated them as ends in themselves when they did nothing about their living conditions and also when they ill-treated them. The officers showed the intention to break the rules which is what also makes the act wrong. The prison officers were aware that the inmates would suffer in the fire yet still let them burn but throwing tear gas in the cells to immobilize them. Utilitarianism is the normative ethical theory that focuses solely on what is right or wrong based on the consequences of carrying out an action over another action, in the interest of choosing the one that creates the most pleasure and causes the least amount pain, while also taking the interest of others into account. A Utilitarian would use the Greatest Happiness Principle to find a solution to this dilemma. According to Cinara Nahra, “the Greatest Happiness Principle is the ultimate criterion to establish what is moral and what is not, i.e., the ideal moral society is the one where everybody is happy and everybody is free of pain” (n.d). By the calculating, the amount of pain or pleasure created, both an Act and Rule Utilitarian would agree that actions of the prison officers were unethical. A price cannot be placed on human life regardless of whether they are inmates or regular law abiding citizens. By allow the prisoners to die the officers has caused more pain the pleasure. Families and friends were in pain because of their loss and the country as a whole. Many may argue that using a theory with a fixed set of rules, like utilitarianism or deontology would faster resolve the dilemma because it gives a precise approach, while Virtue ethics can be too general and is more focused on who we should be (excellent person) rather than what we should do. For example, using one of Philippa Foot’s trolley problem, let say that there is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks headed toward five people. You and a fat man are on a bridge, watching the events from above the tracks. You realize that, if you push him off the bridge onto the tracks below, the trolley will hit and kill him, but his body will stop the trolley before it reaches the five-endangered people. You can (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people. (2) Push the large man off the bridge, so that he dies, but the five others are saved. If we were to use each of the ethical theories to solve this trolley case, Deontology and Utilitarianism would who provide an immediate action to be taken by the agent. Virtue ethics, however, does not provide action-based guidance. All deontologist would agree that you should do nothing because if you push the fat man then you would kill him, which is something one is never allowed to do (even with consent) because it is violating the categorical imperative. Using the fat man to save others would be treating him as an end in itself; this is not permissible. Utilitarians would agree that you should push the fat man because it will ultimately save more lives and more people would be happy. A virtue ethicist would not state whether or not you should push the man and would only deem your action as permissible, base on your reason for carrying out the act. If you push the fat man because you wanted to save the people’s lives and nothing more then it is permissible. If you choose not to push the fat man because you believe that it is unfair to the fat man then it is also permissible. However, if you push the fat man to save the people lives and to be seen as a hero, or you did not do anything because you are scared, your activities are not permissible. The only this that matter to the virtue ethicists is the reasons behind your action and whether or not it is virtuous. Critical issues like autonomy, and fairness all matter. In both our dilemma and the trolley case, the autonomy of victims has to be considered. Virtue ethics does not look at this unless the agent reason for helping another is out of respect for their autonomy. In the case of fairness, Virtue ethics is very selfish because it only considers the happiness of one inside of all which make it differ from Utilitarianism greatly Despite the flaws that are present in Virtue ethics, it remains the best ethical theory to solve this dilemma because if every person were to focus on cultivating the sort of qualities someone ought to foster in order to become an excellent person then society would better overall. People would act in order have a better character and so they will refrain from doing things that will lead to a bad character. Virtue ethics, unlike Utilitarianism, doesn’t lead to grave injustice for the innocent. The issue of the ‘punishment’ of the innocent is a serious problem for the Utilitarians, along with the fact that Utilitarians one has to choose between justice and utility which is a huge flaw with this of the ethical theory. For deontology, the greatest flaw is the It can be concluded that the equal and immoral treatment of inmates by officers cannot be justified. Regardless of which ethical theory used the action of the prison officers would have been found to be unethical in each case. Despite this, it was found that virtue ethics is the best normative theory to point this out because it considers multiple possible reasons behind the agent’s actions circumstance before placing judgement. Both utilitarianism and deontology have strict rules which leave no room for any consideration of the agent.