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Arts & Letters Daily


3d. Desert - Drama Club


Deserves either an object of interest or an object of disinterest


Duty. The Drama Club staff coach, Ms. Smith, humbly accepted the cheers from the audience and the bouquets of flowers at the conclusion of the final night of the dramatic performance of Of Mice and Men. The announcement of this performance, the countless hours of rehearsals and the three-night performance schedule had exhausted her. There had been considerable outcry from a small vocal group of parents who objected to the use of coarse language in the script. Never-the-less, on this final night, the Superintendent praised Ms. Smith and the students for this highly professional rendition of Steinbach’s novel. He called Ms. Smith’s leadership an act of supererogation … she had fulfilled her duty.

Rights. Many thoughts raced through Ms. Smith’s mind. But, they all came down to the issues she had faced as she defended putting on this production. Did she have a right to put on a production of this controversial novel which was on the curriculum? Was it her duty to defend this right? It may have been her right but was this the time and place to defend it? She hoped she had done the right thing.

Motive. Ms. Smith was less concerned about being a morally good person; she wanted to be a person who is actually doing what is right. As one of many role models for adolescents entrusted to her, she must resist the temptation to be selfish in her choice of drama productions or do what is wrong.

Desert. To Ms. Smith’s surprise, The Superintendent announced that he wanted to show his support for the the dedicated effort Ms. Smith had made in a tangible way. At that point, he presented her with an envelope which contained a check to cover the tuition for a summer course on High School Drama Productions. She had planned to register for the course. She had received an award for having gone beyond the call of duty as seen by the Superintendent.


  • If Ms. Smith had not gone beyond the call of duty, should she have received an award? Explain.
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of ‘deserve something’

  • Crooked thinking

When A says that B deserves something, A means that B deserves an object of interest.

  • Straight thinking

When A says that B deserves something, A means that B deserves either an object of interest or an object of disinterest. What are the objects of interest and objects of disinterest which a person might deserve? Objects of interest can take one of two forms. A mild form, as well as the most common form, is approval. The approval can be in the form of a nod, words of praise, or a pat on the back. When approval is expressed in stronger terms, such as gifts or money, it is usually referred to as a reward. Rewards clearly include approval but they take on a more substantial form such as gifts. Mild forms of approval are commonly expressed about a person who has done his duty. However, rewards are usually deserved for two kinds of occasions. A person frequently deserves a reward when he has completed a difficult task which many people will not even try or which they frequently fail to complete. For example, a young person might receive a reward for rescuing a drowning child from a river. Secondly, a person is frequently rewarded for doing something which is beyond the call of duty. For example, a physical education teacher may reward a student for staying after school regularly to clean up the equipment. To keep up this kind of schedule most people would consider going beyond the call of duty.

Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click on the following:

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