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7e. Justice - Allocating books

Justice

Objective sense of the class of the word ‘just’

Dilemma

Duty. Mr. Jacks was making a final count of the English books that had been allocated to him for his English classes because some students can get quite upset when they don’t receive their textbooks on the first day of classes. Sure enough, the new vice principal, Ms. Bentley, had short-changed him of two copies of one of the novels. This was the second year that she had made a counting error. Enough already! He was sure she was shorting him whenever there was a shortage of books. This time he was not going to put up with it. He confronted her accusing her of deliberately short changing him whenever there was a shortage of books. Had he made a moral issue of what started as a non-moral issue? Was that immoral?

Rights. Ms. Bentley retorted, ‘I have a duty to allocate the textbooks … that gives me the right to allocate the books as best I can. Someone has to put up with textbook shortages. In any case, you won’t be using the novel where you are short of two copies till later in the year. We might be able to order those books before you need them.’ With that said, she returned to distributing books.

Motive. Mr. Jacks was not amused by Ms. Bentley’s terse response. He accused her of acting with indifference as to the wrongness of her action. ‘That’s immoral’, he shot back.

Desert. Why did Mr. Jacks confront Ms. Bentley about this issue given that she was quite right about when he would be teaching that novel? He felt she needed an expression of disapproval because she apparently had short-changed his class quite deliberately. She seemed indifferent as to whether her actions were right or wrong.

Justice. From Jacks’ perspective, Ms. Bentley was making subjective decisions in allocating books when she should be objective. She seemed to favour some teachers over others. That’s not fair to the teachers and classes who frequently are short of textbooks.

Discussion

  • Is there no place for subjectivity in making just and fair decisions?
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

  • Discuss how each judgement ( duty, rights, motive, desert, justice) contributes to a more thorough understanding of a moral dilemma.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view about ‘objectivity’

  • Straight thinking

The objective sense the word ‘just’ refers to the distribution or allocation of objects of interest or disinterest. For example, a disbursement of funds is just or unjust depending on how the money (object of interest) is distributed or allocated. Laws are just or unjust depending on how they distribute or allocate legal obligations (objects of disinterest) and legal rights (objects of interest). Wars are just or unjust depending on how they affect the redistribution of objects of interest or disinterest. Governments are just or unjust depending on whether they legislate and execute just or unjust laws. Societies are just or unjust depending on how the objects of interest (property, services) and objects of disinterest (taxes, military services) are allocated or distributed. Courts make judgements for the purpose of distributing or allocating objects of interest or disinterest.

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 the following:

Join in the conversation by leaving your comments in the blog. Click HERE.

7. Dilemma

Duty. Mr. Jacks was making a final count of the English books that had been allocated to him for his English classes because some students can get quite upset when they don’t receive their textbooks on the first day of classes. Sure enough, the new vice principal, Ms. Bentley, had short-changed him of two copies of one of the novels. This was the second year that she had made a counting error. Enough already! He was sure she was shorting him whenever there was a shortage of books. This time he was not going to put up with it. He confronted her accusing her of deliberately short changing him whenever there was a shortage of books. Had he made a moral issue of what started as a non-moral issue? Was that immoral?

Rights. Ms. Bentley retorted, ‘I have a duty to allocate the textbooks … that gives me the right to allocate the books as best I can. Someone has to put up with textbook shortages. In any case, you won’t be using the novel where you are short of two copies till later in the year. We might be able to order those books before you need them.’ With that said, she returned to distributing books.

Motive. Mr. Jacks was not amused by Ms. Bentley’s terse response. He accused her of acting with indifference as to the wrongness of her action. ‘That’s immoral’, he shot back.

Desert. Why did Mr. Jacks confront Ms. Bentley about this issue given that she was quite right about when he would be teaching that novel? He felt she needed an expression of disapproval because she apparently had short-changed his class quite deliberately. She seemed indifferent as to whether her actions were right or wrong.

Justice. From Jacks’ perspective, Ms. Bentley was making subjective decisions in allocating books when she should be objective. She seemed to favour some teachers over others. That’s not fair to the teachers and classes who frequently are short of textbooks.

Discussion

  • Is there no place for subjectivity in making just and fair decisions?
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of straight and crooked thinking.

Consider this view about ‘willing to do wrong’