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Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives Essay


Life is full of choices. There is a need to make decisions all the time. A good decision will oftentimes lead to success and a wrong choice may often lead to misfortune. But more than the ability to make wise decisions, a human being must choose well because of the consequences that it would bring.

Through the centuries philosophers from all over the planet struggle to create a system that will enable mankind to make wiser decisions. As a result concepts like deontology, teleology and utilitarianism became favourite topics in the academe and even in the world of commerce where ethical decision-making processes are badly needed.

The following narrative will show how difficult it is to make decisions in a complex world and how different schools of thought like deontology and teleology are tools that can help a person to make the right decision.

The Fable of Discriminative Justice

This particular narrative requires the use of deontological and teleological perspective in order to help understand the dilemma faced by Kristen, the principal character. Kristen struggles to find a solution or even a middle ground between two “warring parties” within the National Museum. The point of contention is with regards to the correct way of depicting or showing the culture of different people.

Her main concern is the criticism she and her department received from members of a minority group who felt that their culture was not presented the correct way. According to them they were not treated fairly because the presentation was biased towards the presenters and never was sensitive to the culture or people group presented in the museum.

The officials of the museum believe that they did nothing wrong. According to them they adhered to strict standards and protocols and therefore as far as they are concerned they did everything by-the-book so to speak and no one has the right to question their motive and integrity.

The situation was made more complicated by the fact that each group would not give others the benefit of the doubt and the moment they decide that they are correct then they create a wall instead of learning how to reach out and communicate.

Using deontological perspective, one can take the side of the museum officials. There is a standard agreed upon the academic community, the government and those who are knowledgeable about the operations of a museum. Using deontological perspective they can reason out that the right thing to do is to follow rules and established procedures and that this is not the time to deviate from it.

It is the right thing to do even if the conflict escalates that there is a need for a third party intervention they are confident that they will win in any venue of discussion even if the aggrieve party will go to the courts, they know that the legal system will back them up.

However, if one will use the teleological perspective then he or she will become sensitive to how members of the minority group will respond to such a stubborn stance. Kristen knew what will be the consequence of such actions.

It can even be argued that Kristen can see the long-term effects of a hard-nosed determination to abide by the rules and zero sensitivity to culture and the way others feel about a presentation or interpretation of their way of life. She has to continue to work with these two opposing groups.

The right thing to do in this case is not to achieve perfection in terms of following the guidelines set by the National Museum but to involve the members of the community so that they can create a better museum that would positively enhance the way people see others. There is a great need to resolve the conflict and so Kristen should not favour one group over the other.

The Fable of Education as a Commodity

This narrative is about the conflict between deontological ethical perspective and utilitarianism. Deidre is the Director of a city-wide volunteer agency and she was troubled with the way volunteers come to understand the essence, purpose, and value of volunteer work (Study Guide, p.12).

The Director of the said agency would like the volunteers to offer their knowledge and skills because they believe that it is the right thing to do and not for selfish reasons. However, the trend that she is seeing lends credence to her fears that the agency is being used as a stepping goal for volunteers who saw an opportunity rather than a need.

At first it was difficult to understand the dilemma faced by Deidre. It is hard to understand why she was so concerned with the real motive of the volunteers. There are many directors or leaders of a volunteer program who will willingly trade places for her because of the significant number of volunteers who come her way.

The high number of volunteers means that the city will be able to accomplish so many tasks. Aside from that the city will save significant amounts money because instead of hiring a professional or part-time employee to perform a needed task, the city can now rely on volunteers who are equally skilled and require no compensation for their services.

This is perhaps the reason why critics of the deontological perspective turn to utilitarianism. Those who use the deontological ethical perspective can become legalistic when it comes to doing the right thing and the abhorrence in doing the wrong things. Thus, the main goal is to determine if it is morally correct or morally wrong to perform a particular task.

Without a doubt Deidre adheres to the idea that those who do volunteer work must do so with pure motives. However, if her strict standards are followed then no one will volunteer because they may feel that they are not worthy enough to be considered as a good volunteer and possibly be labeled as an evil volunteer.

But if the agency will accept the utilitarian ethical perspective then it is perfectly alright to allow volunteers to come and work even if they have a hidden agenda.

Those who support the utilitarian view will find their behavior as acceptable because they believe that human beings will not do anything unless they are convinced that a particular action will produce the highest form of good.

In the words of one scholar “we simply try to select those alternatives for action that promise to provide the greatest overall happiness for persons according to each person’s idea of happiness” (Brady, 1996). Deidre should change her attitude regarding her volunteers.

The Fable of the Educational Contract

Anatoly is between a rock and a hard place. He is pulled from two different directions, the deontologists will tell him that he should not do anything that would violate his conscience and the he only has to do what is right. On the other hand he values his present form of livelihood.

He loves his job, he want to continue working as an agricultural extension worker paid by the government to help farmers. This means that he has to think using the perspective of utilitarian ethics. However, he feels burdened to help more people and therefore risk losing his job.

Anatoly has a very clear understanding of what is at stake. He knew that if he will not help the farmers in the way that he knows how then they will come to financial ruin. But if he will pursue this path then he will be the one who will come to financial ruin for he is at the mercy of the government.

He is not a tenured employee in the sense that he has the right to hold on to his job and can sue the government if he is fired without a good reason. His contract is only for two years and this means that he is constantly under pressure to perform in accordance to the standards and expectations in the said contract.

In order to please his employers he has to show measurable results and this can only be done by helping established farmers – those that can afford to hire accountants and other consultants who can help them. It can be argued that the size of their farms is the reason why Anatoly will earn a better score as compared to helping poor farmers.

He knew that if he will ignore those who are ignorant of modern methods and a more scientific way of managing their farm, they may not survive another cropping season. However, by helping them his performance report will be dismal and he will lose the necessary point required to earn another two-year contract.

One way to deal with this problem is to merge the best of both worlds – the deontological and utilitarian ethical perspective. Anatoly will have to convince himself that if he can no longer work in the area because he was unable to secure a contract then the farmers that he cares about will have no fighting chance.

But if he stays on as an extension worker then there is a chance for him to help them. So using the utilitarian mindset he will do what the contract requires but increasing his ability to manage his time, he will be able to spend more time with poor farmers.

The Fable of Accountability

Peter is doing something that has never been done before and therefore it requires him to do some experimentation. It was seen as unconventional for many but it has proven to be a successful program. The consequentialist is not after the form but the results.

The consequentialist will always demand performance and the justification is in the impact of the action no matter what has been done. In this case Peter passed with flying colours, however, there are those who question his methods. He responds by pointing to his body of work. He has accomplished something that has never been done and considered almost an impossible task by those who came before him.

There are those who may be alarmed by his audacity to create something that has no precedent. But it must be viewed correctly as not merely an experiment but the desire to answer a deep-felt need. He must be seen not as a dare-devil trying to be a showboat but an innovator concern with the problem of society and the creation of the Gravy Train must be understood therefore as a form of public service.

The consequentialist will encourage him no end saying that the voice of the protesters must be dimmed out because they have no idea what needs to be done. They are experts when it comes to the form and the artistry but they have no idea how to complete a task, to bring down what is theoretical to the common people. In this world there is a premium given to outcomes.

It is no longer important to simply focus on the ideal but on the results. In a nation needing more qualified personnel the Gravy Train is an innovative solution and Peter must be commended for what he has done not the other way around.

The Fable of the Educational Requirement

Yanita is an accomplished ENT, in fact she is a sought-after resource person when it comes to teaching others on how to succeed in her field. She is a veteran about to retire in a few years time. However, there is one requirement that has to be completed before she can continue with her practice.

It required her to spend twenty hours or so in a classroom setting to listen to someone teach about topics that she knows very well and in fact she can even teach in that class. As a result she was drawn to other more interesting topics – one that she really needs to prepare for her upcoming retirement.

She knew that there is a way for her to hit two birds with one stone, so to speak. She was familiar with the assessment process that she can manipulate the paper work and make it appear that she went to school and earned units for subjects that will enhance her knowledge as an ENT. She was the only person who knew that what she really did was to take up courses that had nothing to do with her medical profession.

She was also the only person who knew that she really benefited from the financial planning class while she had little to learn from the classes that she was supposed to go to.

The deontologists will cry foul and say that she is wrong. Those who adhere to utilitarian principles may argue that she did something that will make her a better person. By going to a financial planning class she was able to prepare herself for retirement and this feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment will make her a better doctor.

Due to the conflicting thoughts that comes from the previously mentioned ethical perspectives it can be said that there is a need for another school of thought – the consequentiality of the action will help Yanita change her view regarding her actions. First of all Yanita was bothered by what she did. She is haunted by a negative feeling that she can never shake-off.

This discomfort is not worth the 20 hours of sacrifice in a classroom. Secondly, there is a chance that she will be found out and a negative reputation and reprimand from her colleagues is not worth it considering that she is about to retire in a few years. All her hard work will go down the drain simply because she does not want to spend a mere 20 hours of listening to someone talk in a classroom. Even if it is a boring class she has to attend.

The Fable of Vocation

Fatima as the director of the community-based Adult Learning Centre was uneasy with the changes that are going on around her (Study Guide, p.33). The Centre is undergoing a radical transformation that would make it expensive to continue the government mandated programme.

But more than that the adults – especially the women – who benefited greatly from previous programmes could no longer find the place as a source of learning because what is being taught there is something beyond their comprehension and their need.

The government wanted to address the problem of unemployment and underemployment and therefore there is a push to transform it into some sort of a vocational training facility, something that Fatima and her colleagues believe is not the appropriate way to go (Study Guide, p.33).

They wanted to continue with the previous programme focused non-vocational interests such as: personal development; child development; parenting; and continuing education (Study Guide, p.33). However, the government is adamant that changes must occur and Fatima understood the consequences of disobedience to the new mandate.

Virtue ethics will help strengthen her resolve to continually help the members of the community even if this would mean that Fatima will have to make sacrifices. This is because virtue ethics is concerned primarily with character not conduct (Darwall, 2003). Her conduct may be judged harshly by those who gave her the directive to change the direction of the Centre.

She will not mind because in accordance to virtue ethics she has to do what needs to be done in order to build a better community. Her conduct should not be judged based on a set of rules but on the idea that the community and its members must strive to become better and it can only happen not only by learning technical skills but also on how to become a better person, a better parent, a better mom and a productive citizen.

Virtue ethics will come to her aid. Virtue ethics will encourage her to do the right thing even if the government will further threaten to cut off funding. She must stand up to these threats and voice out her opinion.

She must tell them that they may be thinking of solving a particular problem but in their zeal they forget that by neglecting the needs of mothers, women and marginalized members of the community they may solve one problem but give birth to new ones. It would be a self-defeating project because unemployment may decrease but social ills will increase all the more.

The Fable of the Educational Partisan

Lucien saw the inefficiency of the educational system. She knew that schools were run by people who have no idea what is going on in the real world. They talk about theories and therefore succeeded in nothing more than teaching the same to their students.

The students subsequently graduate without the ample preparation needed to survive and thrive in the workplace. This because teachers are hired based on educational attainment and not on experience and their ability to teach what is needed for workers and employees to be effective in their chosen industry.

Lucien also discovered that an attempt to change this mindset is met with stiff opposition. She therefore decided that it was time to fight fire with fire. She succeeded and the current education system has now been transformed into something geared towards efficiency and it is now outcome driven.

But there was a major consequence. There was too much freedom in the educational system. Lucien began to lament the fact that in the old days there were those who acted like watchdogs eager to safeguard the system and protect it from those who are there for there own interests. Lucien believed that she may have gone overboard.

It is time to go against the status quo. It is time for revolutionaries like Lucien. She must steel herself thinking that revolutionaries in the past were labelled as misfits and rabble-rousers when in fact they were doing a service. Many were martyred for their beliefs but as a result of their sacrifice significant and long-lasting change occurred in the community and the nation as a whole.

Lucien must find inspiration from past heroes and trailblazers who did not succumb to the pressure placed on them by the status quo. She must transcend the negative criticism, especially those that came from within her heart.

Situational ethicists may counsel her differently saying that she had to do what she had to do because the prevailing mindset was not producing quality workers. Industries were dying and companies were losing money because they have could not tap into a pool of skilled workers.

Situational ethicists will remind her that she “should be ready in any situation to compromise ethical principles in the interest of a greater good” (Mitchell, 2003).

She was justified for doing so and she must not apologize for her actions. The situational ethicist has a more flexible standard and they are willing to adapt to changes in the environment.

If her problem is the lack of regulation in the vocational training facilities then she must be ready to stand up once again and fight for what she believes what is right. This time around she has to make noise regarding the abuses that she has encountered.

Conclusion

There were different stories that were presented. There were different characters in different setting faced with different types of challenges. Nevertheless, the system of thought developed by philosophers, that resulted in the distillation of ideas and help produce a process that enable an individual to think through a dilemma and find a solution is evident in the process of developing this paper.

It has to be acknowledged that there is no single solution to a every problem that was presented in through the narratives. Nevertheless, a basic understanding of deontology, teleology, utilitarianism and other ethical concepts proves to be a helpful tool in figuring out a solution life’s problems.

References

Bagnall, R.G. (2004) Cautionary tales in the ethics of lifelong learning and management: A book of fables. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic

Bowie, N. (1999) A Kantian Approach to Business Ethics. In R. E. Frederick (Ed.). Companion to Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Company.

Brady, N. (1996). Ethical Universals in International Business. New York: Springer.

Darwall, S. (2003) Virtue Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Mitchell, C. (2003) A Short Course in International Business Ethics. CA: World Trade Press.

Preston, N. (1996) “Ethical Theory: An overview,” in his Understanding Ethics, pp.39-66, Sydney: The Federation Press.

Rychlak, J. F. (1994) Logical Learning Theory: A Human Teleology and Its Empirical Support. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Swanson, D. I. (1999) Business Ethics and Economics. In R. E. Frederick (Ed.). A Companion to Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Company.

Wringe, C. (2006) Moral Education: Beyond the Teaching of Right and Wrong.  Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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Love, B. (2019, June 25). Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/fables-and-ethics-applying-principles-in-ethical-thought-through-the-analysis-of-narratives/

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Love, Brendon. "Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives." IvyPanda, 25 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/fables-and-ethics-applying-principles-in-ethical-thought-through-the-analysis-of-narratives/.

1. Brendon Love. "Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives." IvyPanda (blog), June 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fables-and-ethics-applying-principles-in-ethical-thought-through-the-analysis-of-narratives/.


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Love, Brendon. "Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives." IvyPanda (blog), June 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fables-and-ethics-applying-principles-in-ethical-thought-through-the-analysis-of-narratives/.

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Love, Brendon. 2019. "Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives." IvyPanda (blog), June 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fables-and-ethics-applying-principles-in-ethical-thought-through-the-analysis-of-narratives/.

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Love, B. (2019) 'Fables and Ethics: Applying Principles in Ethical Thought through the Analysis of Narratives'. IvyPanda, 25 June.

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