Question 1: Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?
I believe that it is far more important to be actually performing good acts than to simply be a good person and have good virtue ethics. However, virtue ethics are almost always necessary in order to perform good acts, otherwise there would be no reason to perform them. Virtue ethics and action ethics are too closely related and necessary to be mutually exclusive, in nearly every situation. I think the only way a person can perform good acts without having virtue ethics is if they are only doing it for their own self-interests and action ethics are a side product. An example of this could be actions to promote someone’s own image to the public; Someone who is very wealthy could donate a large sum of money to charity, but only do it because they want to be viewed in a positive manner or to deduct the donation from taxes, and not because they genuinely care about the people they are helping. This situation does not occur very often; almost always there is real virtue ethics behind action ethics. When it comes to actually making a difference in the world, action ethics are far more important. Many people can talk all the time about how much they care about an issue or problem in society, but that makes no difference compared to when someone takes real action to solve issues. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”.
Question 2: Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?
For this question, I think it can vary a lot depending on what the means and ends are in a given situation. The majority of the time I think that the ends do justify means. An example mentioned in the reading asked the question: Is fundamentally wrong to chop down a tree, even if it is for a good end cause like forest fire prevention? I think in a case like this, the ends absolutely justify the means. It would be ignorant to say that chopping down a tree is always bad, when the action of chopping down that tree will save many more trees. If society always thinks in a way that only looks at means and ignores their reasoning and ends, we would never make any progress and many irrational decisions would be made. Another example I can think of is hunting regulations. Many people like to believe that hunting is inherently bad. While ethically, people may think it is wrong to kill animals, it may be necessary to encourage hunters to hunt certain types of animals to keep populations and ecosystems stable. Hunting laws are already set up this way, such as deer hunting. It is one of the least restricted animals to hunt, because their population grows so rapidly out of control. Other species that have stable populations are more restricted to keep their populations in check.
Question 3: Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?
For this question, I think it can also relate back to the ends vs. means ethics debate. It is the balance between what is inherently good vs. what will ultimately bring benefits. Democracy seems to be a very large part of this justice debate. Our country was founded on the basis of democracy. Ideally, democracy brings freedom to people in many ways and allows people to excel above others financially and socially if they are willing to put in the effort to do so. Therefore people who believe a strictly democratic society is always best are on the procedural side of the debate. However, I believe making decisions based only off of procedural justice – what should lead to better society, will fail every time if we do not also focus on the consequences by using distributive justice. The history of our country has shown that having a solely democratic society will not work – less fortunate people tend to get left behind, monopolies occur when groups gain too much power, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, etc… These are all major problems that can and have occurred in our country. The only way to help solve these issues is to focus more heavily on distributive justice – basing our actions off of their consequences rather than what theoretically works.