Ethics and Society Essay Example

2Ethics and society


The case study to be used in this analysis is ‘It’s not yours until you pay’. The case analyses common actions that people in the supermarket do while shopping. A woman picking grapes and giving them to her toddler without buying, an elderly woman picks up bananas and takes off the bunch of stalk attached to the fruit for her not to pay for the additional weight. In the same scenario, a guy removers green stalks from hydroponic tomatoes in order for them to look ordinary and thus pay cheaper. In the queue checkout, most women waiting to be served take magazines off the rack and read them as they wait to be served and then stuff them back when it is their turn to be served. Nobody says anything concerning these issues and it seems acceptable way of doing things. In a different supermarket, a woman takes a handful of nuts from the display avoiding supplied hygienic metal scoop in order for her not to pay. More so, Google reveals that most people consider these actions as normal way of doing things and it’s not theft to do such actions.

Consequentialism also referred to as teleogical ethics is a moral theory which bases its judgment on the positive or the negative consequences of an action in order to consider it wrong or right. In essence, it endorses a course of actions based on the consequences that such actions has to the vast majority, it can also be thought as an extrinsic consideration of the action and not intrinsic. According to Preston (2007, p.36) consequentialism is utilitarianism and as a teleological theory, it emphasizes the pleasure or the happiness or utility as the much needed goal for choice and action of a human. This theory thus emphasizes on the greatest achievement of pleasure to the majority without consideration of the correctness or wrongness of the action. Non- Consequentialism is the reverse of consequentialism and is usually referred to as deontological ethics as it judges the appropriateness of the action itself intrinsically and not on the consequence that the action brings forth or rather the extrinsic consideration of the action. According to Preston (2007, p.40) duties ought to be obeyed or rights acknowledged irrespective of its consequences and thus the term non-consequentialism. Ethics according to non- consequentialism demands or enjoin people to do the right action because it is the right action to be done, intrinsically and not extrinsically as observed in consequentialism.

Consequentialist and non- Consequentialist analysis

Considering the case study, the actions of different characters such as the woman picking grapes for her toddler without paying for them or the a woman removing the stalks at attached to her fruits in order to pay less brings an overall good to the people involved. The woman who picks the grapes for her toddler does not pay for them while the woman and the guy removing stalks from their fruits avoid paying for the extra weigh that they cannot consume after all. Reading a magazine from shelve of a supermarket while waiting to be served seems to be justified by the long queue that people must face before being served. More so, eating nuts from the display and avoiding supplied hygienic metal seems justified because of the nuts on the display are not on sale. The overall outcome from these actions are good on the side of the participants, as evident from the Google search, such actions seem acceptable to the general public because of the general outcome that the actions have on them (Mulgan 2006). From the perspective of a consequentialist, or from a teleogical approach, the actions have a general good on the side of the participants or the buyers in the supermarket and that is the reason behind them considering such actions as acceptable in their perspective (Darwall 2003).

On the contrary, from the perspective of the supermarket and a section of the public especially people affected by such actions, from a consequentialist point of view, such actions result in losses and low quality of products such as the magazines that people read on their way to the checkout. The supermarket makes losses from the low weight of the goods measured on the way out and from the grapes and the nuts that people illegally consume. As elaborated by Mulgan (2006, p.143), the actions of these people bring more negative results as positive and hence contrary to the provisions of consequentalism in this perspective.

Non- Consequentialism emphasizes on doing what is considered right and also enjoins people on doing the right actions without taking into account the extrinsic consequences of the action (Oderberg 2000). The consequences of the actions should not be the driving factor in non- consequentialism but rather the rightness or the character value of the action should be the driving factor (Jackson & Priest 2004). In this case study, the actions demonstrated by the characters involved like the woman picking grapes for her child without paying or the woman and the guy seen removing the stalks off their fruits in order to reduce the cost of the fruit is contrary to the provisions of non- consequentialism or deontological teachings. More so, eating nuts from the display in order to avoid paying for them or taking magazines off the shelves in a queue and returning them after reading is completely contrary to non- consequentialism as such actions are not right or considered of positive character because of they are not simply the right actions to be done (Swanton 2005).

Taking the two ethical approach in the analysis of the case study, consequentialism will only be considered appropriate when the buyer’s perspective or the generally accepted outcome as evident from the Google search elaborated in the case study. This is because of the positive consequences of the actions taken by the participants, in summary; these people avoid the pain of paying more to the services that they can acquire for free irrespective of the negative implications of their actions to the sellers or the supermarket in general (Haber 1994). This can also be contrary when the perspective of the supermarket is taken into consideration. This is because such actions from the buyers is brings more negative outcome to them (Tully 2006). On the other hand, non- consequentialism will mainly judge the character or the correctness of the action and not the consequences of the action (Darwall 2003). In this case, the actions of all people involved are not morally or ethically acceptable according to non- consequentialism. The actions of buyers taking grapes and nuts for free and avoiding paying for them or reading magazines from the supermarket shelve without purchasing them is unethical and unlawful.

According to Birn (2005, p.342) the rule of law subjects all individuals into doing what is right at all time. This thus implies that if a police was to attend a supermarket to address the issues raised in this case study; the police ought not to use discretion but rather the rule of law and put these offenders on custody in order for them to pay for the consequences of their deeds. Using the rule of law will support the provisions of the non- consequentialism or deontological approach. The rationale for this is because non- consequentialism judges the action itself to determine if it is appropriate or not. This is likewise to the rule of law. Applying discretion implies that the police will determine their policing actions based on what is perceived to be the right action because of the desired consequence of the action which creates happiness to majority of the people. This will be aligned to the provisions of the consequentialism or teleological ethical teachings. In this case, using the rule of law as an ethical foundation demands that non- consequentialism approach be used. Deontological approach will thus be the most appropriate for the police facing such a scenario to use in order to mitigate such unethical actions (Preston 2007).

This scenario demands the application of the correct action in order to foster justice to the minority and not deriving pleasure from doing a wrong act because it brings most pleasure to the majority of the people. The rule of law coupled with the provisions of non- consequentialism provides judges the morality of the act in order to consider it positive or negative irrespective of the consequences as opposed to the perception created in the case study. In summary, the end may not be justification of the means after all.

The application of a deontological approach or non- consequentialism will enhance moral obligations of the actions that the individual take. The perceived acceptance of actions as revealed by the case study will be mitigated by using non- consequentialism approach. It will thus decrease irresponsible interference of other people’s property irrespective of the pleasure or the happiness that is derived from such actions since the action itself is illegal and unethical. The limitation of using non- consequentialism approach is the understanding of the action that is perceived wrong or right when a situation is considered. In essence, there is a dilemma presented by the application of this theoretical framework. For instance, some may argue that a mere reading of a magazine from a shelf of a supermarket while waiting to be served may not be wrong as long as it is not taken from the supermarket illegally (Preston 2007). Non- consequentialism will insist on the violation of the owner’s copyrights and the need to pay before one uses. The application of this ethical theoretical framework is thus subject to debate and thus its major weakness.


The implication of consequentialism based on the case study will mean that the action be sustained because of the overall perception that it brings happiness to the majority. Enjoying free grapes and nuts while shopping without being questioned or being subject to pay for them may seem enjoyable to the participants. Despite the derived happiness or goodness of the actions as perceived by the majority, the action itself is not justifiable. According to the provisions of the rule of the law and the guidance of non- consequentialism, the actions of the participants ought to be acceptable in ethical standards and even moral values since the approach values the character of the action and not the consequences of the action itself. Based on this approach, the actions of the individuals in the supermarket infringe on the ownership rights because these people consume their products without initially paying for them. This is a breach of the rule of law as well as the provisions of non- consequentialism not because of the consequences of the actions but by the action itself.

Because the majority of the people tend to believe that the actions of the individuals considered in the case study are acceptable as evident by the Google search, the implication of non- consequentialism approach will greatly affect limit their actions. On the other hand the application of consequentialism approach may encourage such illegal actions. The police will be tempted to use discretion instead of the rule of law while addressing such cases.

The theoretical framework chosen is thus non- consequentialism because of the need to evaluate the character or value of the action itself instead of considering the consequences of the actions to the vast majority. As Aristotle stated over two thousand years ago, the rule of law is of more importance to the vast majority as compared to the rule of an individual person. More so, the provisions of non- consequentialism approach is of more good to the vast majority because a wrong action cannot justify a good consequence even if it benefits the majority. The provisions of the non- consequentialism should thus be sustained in this case study in order to bring justice to the owners of the supermarket and copyrights of the magazine authors. The application of the rule of the law brings order and justice to the minority who may face oppression from what the majority deem acceptable because of the overall happiness, pleasure or goodness derived from an act irrespective of the correctness or the goodness of the action itself.