Morals for your Story: 4-18-11

Dilemma #1
Two friends of mine are big sports fans. I am not. They both purchased season passes to their favorite team. However for the first game one of my friends was out of town. So he let me borrow his ticket to go with the friend that was still in town. I did and it was great fun, but what I didn’t expect was to win an iPod touch while there. Now technically I won this as the person occupying the seat. I know that neither my friend nor I own an iPod already. So, I’m torn as to whether I tell him I won it or just keep it for myself. Help.
–What’s an iPod Between Friends?

Responses to Dilemma #1
A conclusion can be reached by looking at virtue ethics. The principle behind virtue ethics is to simply ask yourself, “what would make me a better person?” Giving the iPod to your friend might make you a better person by helping you become less self-centered and more aware of those around you. Showing other people, especially your friends, that you care about them would be beneficial for both because it would make you reliable and trustworthy: qualities necessary for a good friendship. When looking at both options, giving the iPod to your friend seems to lead you to be a more virtuous person.

The dilemma of the iPod is one best solved by solving the solution with your friend’s help. Since it was his ticket that you got to use in the first place, even without the iPod you still ended up ahead in the whole situation. No matter how this turns out you should consider yourself lucky. My advice would be to follow utilitarian values to determine the greatest amount of happiness for all involved. The person who ultimately ends up with the iPod would undoubtedly feel some amount of guilt. Therefore my advice would be to buy a second iPod. You and your friend could split the cost of buying one, and essentially each get a new iPod for half price. Neither of you would feel any guilt and you’d both come out ahead, a win-win for both people.
–Ethan Blodgett

Once the iPod is granted to you, you should give it back to your friend and consider that the iPod is not yours, since you only won it because your friend let you have his ticket. Another reason why you should tell your friend and give the iPod to him is that if you do not tell him and keep the iPod for yourself, you will feel awful because you’ll be afraid that your friend might find out about this fortune, and he will be mad at you. Additionally, if he finds out about it later, this could cause him negative feeling towards you. As a result, you might lose your friend and feel ashamed about yourself. In my perspective, such an action is like a theft. If you really want an iPod, you can simply get it from a store anywhere, and the price is not too expensive. What I’ve learned from this is that a friend is not for sale in a store, and cannot be purchased with money.
–Friend vs. iPod

In response to the dilemma of the Ipod, it is clear that you must give the Ipod to your friend. If one were to consider a situation in which person A buys a winning lottery ticket, buy person B is holding the ticket when the winning number are called, the ticket still belongs to person A. Person B just happened to be holding person A’s ticket when the numbers were called. You may have been in the winning seat, but your friend purchased that seat. If you were to think about it, as if the roles were switched, and your friend had won the Ipod in the seat you paid for, would you think the Ipod belonged to you?
Looks like you stumbled upon quite the predicament. My initial reaction is to recommend that you do the “right thing” and tell your friend, but upon further consideration, this does not appear to be a wise idea. According to the ideas of Mill, our acts are judged by our consequences, and the consequences of telling your friend would be more severe than not telling your friend. If you both know about the iPod, then one of you is destined to be unhappy since only one person can have the iPod. By not telling your friend, you can enjoy the iPod and your friend can continue living his life in blissful ignorance.

Speaking from a strictly Kantian ethics perspective, it’s entirely up to you. Let me explain, you occupied his seat and won an iPod, however, it is not immoral to withhold this information. You are perfectly within your ethical rights to keep the iPod under most circumstances. However, if he blatantly asks you if you won an iPod, according to Kant, you would be obliged to tell him the truth. From there it’s up to you. On a side note, if you hadn’t gone then it might have been an empty seat and nobody would have won. There isn’t a single scenario where the friend who gave you the tickets could have won it, so he is hardly entitled to it.

Dilemma #2
I have something which has been bugging me for a while. I’m on a meal plan, meaning I eat at Slate for most of my meals. Recently I’ve started taking 2-4 of the peanut butter packs they keep there on my way out, for later consumption with crackers or something. I didn’t think much of it, but just recently a friend of mine told me that it was probably wrong and that it could be considered theft; buffet food is usually meant to stay in the buffet, after all. I hadn’t really thought about it, but my friend might have a point. Is it okay for me to walk out with and save Slate food when I can just go buy peanut butter on my own? I can’t decide what would be right in this situation.
— Potential Peanut Butter Pilferer

Responses to Dilemma #2
Stealing is bad obviously and this could be considered stealing but as a person that also has a meal plan I can understand it. First, the money that is spent on the meal plans is basically stealing on their part for the quality of food in slate. Second, the slate workers take into account people doing this, they actually allow you to walk out with a sandwich or other things like that. I think it’s ok but if it is nagging at you stop.

When it comes taking some food from the Slate, I must admit that I have done the same thing before. I have come to the conclusion though that it is ethically wrong to do so. If every person who ate at Slate took some food to go, eventually, there will be a shortage of food for those who come later to eat. The shortage of food would be at the fault of those who took the food with them when they left. If the axiom that it is wrong to deprive anyone of food when one self has been filled can be agreed upon, then it can be concluded that the action of taking food from the Slate after eating till one’s content is wrong.

I must say that I myself am guilty of the very same pilfering that you refer to. And I can also say that I find nothing wrong with the action. You (or your parents) pay to eat at Slate, quite a bit actually. Aramark, the service providing the food at Slate, is paid by Mines, and thus by you or your parents, to provide food for you to eat. Who’s to say that you can’t eat that food in your dorm later when you’re hungry? According to Immanuel Kant, moral guidance should come from logic and practicality, not emotion. It is far more logical for you to be able to enjoy the food which your money has paid for at a time of your choosing. It is also more practical to utilize the small containers for snacking in your dorm where you may not need to open an entire container of peanut butter. All in all, I say that you are not only safe, but also justified in taking the peanut butter in Slate to enjoy later.
–Fellow Peanut Butter Pilferer

Technically you did pay an exorbitant $2000 for all your meals in Slate. Some of my friends and I have calculated that you can eat Chipotle every meal and still save money. Slate realizes that people have the ability to walk out with whatever they want, and they charge extra. Personally I have taken milk, cereal, bagels, and many cookies. I have yet to be asked to eat something while I remain in the café, or to throw something away. I would see it being a problem if they asked you not to take anything anymore. Also, if the food actually was reasonable in quality and actually tasted good, then I would be morally obligated to no longer take any food. In my eyes Slate is stealing from you.
–Cannot Wait to Cook My Own Food Next Year

From a utilitarian standpoint we should look at the change in happiness of all parties affected by this action to decide if it’s moral or not. You are obviously made happier by this action because you continue to do it, the company (including its stock holders and their families) who provides food for the Slate on the other hand likely loses utility due to your thievery because of its loss in profits. Yet utilitarianism tells us to delve deeper. The company who sells peanut butter to the Slate is going to end up selling more peanut butter which increases its utility, this same goes for peanut farmers (don’t forget their families) who sell more peanuts. That’s good but I think we can do gooder…er… This increase in peanut growth, to support the extra demand created by your snacking, will increase the stress on fresh water supply in peanut growing regions, making scarce water supplies scarcer. This will also increase the stress on nutrient supply in the peanut growing soil, which in turn increases the use of fertilizer which will inevitably be washed down into the ocean adding to algae blooms which cause dead zones which decrease the fish caring capacity of the oceans causing fish prices to rise everywhere.
So in summary, taking a few extra packets of peanut butter from the Slate has such a tiny effect on all the others affected, that a small increase in your own happiness overcomes all of these puny increases and decreases in happiness, making this action moral.
–John Mulligan

When wondering whether taking the peanut butter for later is unethical, I think you should look at the idea of a sack lunch. A sack lunch is food from Slate that you get with a swipe, and keep for a later time to eat. Also imagine that when you go into Slate, you pay the same amount for each meal, whether or not you only eat an apple, or you eat everything that they have. So I believe that taking the peanut butter for a later time to eat with crackers and such should not be frowned upon.

If you’re not sure about it, don’t do it. The uncertainty and guilt is not worth the $3 that store-bought peanut butter costs. And besides, the peanut butter isn’t great at Slate, and buying store bought opens you up to new varieties, such as crunchy…

The best solution to the dilemma of whether it is ok to take peanut butter from Slate to eat later is to just ask the workers at Slate. I have run into similar situations with taking fruit from Slate to eat later. I solved this problem by simply asking whether it was ok do what I was doing, and they were fine with it. If you ask you will probably be affirmed in your belief that it is ok to take peanut butter since a few packets of peanut butter cost about the same as or less than a piece of fruit. The point is you will never know if what you are doing is wrong if you don’t ask.

Well it all depends on how you wish to look at it. If you see all that you spend going to Slate every meal, which is about $7.30 a meal, you would understand that in fact that peanut butter is yours and your right to take. After all, you obviously did not eat $7.30 worth of food because that would require 3-4 plates full of food. Another reason to take that peanut butter for your own is because you might dislike the “big bad corporations” so when you take the peanut butter you are giving Aramark less of a profit than the next person is and therefore are hurting them (very slightly) financially.

Well, pilferer of potential peanut packets of pleasure, your dilemma isn’t as simple as your friend suggests. Kant would say that since not everyone can be allowed to steal, you should probably stop taking them, but a utilitarian view may make more sense. The question you have to ask yourself is who benefits more by having those extra packets, you or Slate? In Slate, they might go unused for days, or even weeks, but bets are you’ll run through them like a child goes through Halloween candy. Since you benefit more from it, from a utilitarian standpoint, it’s morally okay to take those extra packets. Just remember that a diet solely made of peanut butter probably isn’t healthy in the long run.
–The Chip Bandit

Next Week’s Dilemmas

I am currently in the process of applying for a scholarship. However, when looking over the scholarship application, there is a section asking if I have a Facebook page or not. I know there is a committee that reviews these applications and will most likely browse my Facebook page if I answer yes. My Facebook, while not stooped in feces, is not necessarily “clean,” nor is it something I wish to have an outside group look at. I believe I should be allotted privacy, and therefore I want to answer “no,” informing them I do not use Facebook. Am I morally required to answer yes on this question, or can I employ a sort of vigilantism, and respond “no” on the grounds that I believe it wrong for them to ask it of me?
–Needs Money for College

So I live in a two bedroom/two bathroom apartment with two other people and we have a fair amount of space distributed between the three of us. Just a couple months ago, my roommate told one of her close friends that he could move in with us so he can get back on his feet. Now a month ago, I was okay with idea because I assumed that my roommate’s friend (we’ll call him New Guy) would have a job by now and would be able to help pay for rent, electricity, gas, etc. the basic dues of living in an apartment. I also assumed that we would have moved into a larger apartment by now so that there would be enough rooms for the 4 of us (New Guy currently sleeps on the couch in the living room). But it’s been a couple of months, we still haven’t been able to move into a larger apartment, and New Guy still doesn’t have a job.
The problem here is that New Guy doesn’t really seem like he’s making an effort to find a job to pay for his part of rent. He’s taking up a lot of space (the entire living room, utility closet, linen closet), and he’s eating all the food we buy. I’ve talked this over with my two roommates and one wants to kick him out and the other (the one who is good friends with New Guy) wants to let him stay which means the decision is up to me. Should I kick him out and cause him to live on the streets with no food, water, or place to stay? Or should I continue to allow him to live here for free and continue to let him take what we pay for?
–Looking Out for Whom?

Loyal readers, my dilemma this week is of the romantic type, and I need your help. About one year ago to the day, I was working as assistant in a pottery studio minding my own business, just cleaning up the dirt, when I met a gorgeous young lady struggling with her clay on the wheel. Trying to be an honest, good working citizen I gave her a few pointers, and her cup eventually took shape. I finished moping and didn’t see her again until seven months later when I got a new job and went to a coworker’s apartment to help him assemble his new TV stand. To my surprise, there in his apartment was that cute armature potter taking care of their newborn child. It turns out they had been married for just over a year.
Well, that co-worker and I would hang out during lunch and after work and he would often tell me that he was unhappy with his marriage, and that she had cheating on him, and blah, blah, blah. I jokingly told him one day that I would like to cheat with his wife. Instead of getting mad like I thought he would, he simply said “please do, so I can have a good reason to get a divorce.” Well, he quit his job, and I haven’t seen either of them for about four months. Last week out of the blue, she hit me up on Facebook, and informed me that they are no longer living together however they are still married. We talked for a long time and the next day she flooded my new phone with naked photos of herself. She has been sexting all week and I don’t know what to do. Honestly, I would like to be Utilitarian and maximize pleasure by making all three of us happy, but am not convinced it is the ethical thing to do.

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