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  • Topic: Theft, Duty, Obligation
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  • Published : November 6, 2010
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The accidental discovery, by a teacher, of suspected stolen goods in a student’s bag is problematic. Is one entitled to act on a wrongful search, albeit accidental, and further, is the presumption of guilt fair/valid? Firstly, consider what action(s) is directed by principles of obligation/duty (Deontological). Secondly, consider the negative and positive consequences of possible responses to determine which course of action achieves the best possible outcome (Consequentialist).

I Deontological – there are conflicting duties: duties of principle, professional duties, and obligations as a community member. Which duty takes precedence?
A) Duty not to act
← Search of bag was violation of privacy, regardless of accidental or not. What about Rodney’s rights? The principle of individual rights is at stake (however, is the principle relative to the nature of the discovery, i.e., what if a gun had been discovered – then must further consider right to safety and life.) ← Presumption of guilt is wrong. It’s not inconceivable that Rodney purchased or was given items. There may be a reasonable explanation. Recent behaviour suggests a positive change. It is wrong to brand him a thief and not give him the benefit of the doubt. ← Could there be cultural issues? (E.g. Aboriginal view may not view shoplifting in the same way.) ← Respecting Rodney as a moral agent is an obligation so others respect us equally ← (Is doing nothing just a social and professional evasion of responsibility?)

B) Duty to act
← Duty to uphold honesty. Stealing is wrong. Would most reasonable people be swayed towards probability of Rodney’s guilt in view of his history? Does the reasonable presumption of stealing override principle of personal right to privacy? (How vulnerable is the principle of stealing to situation?) ← Teacher has a professional duty towards Rodney. This doesn’t stop after school hours ( By befriending Rodney outside of school hours and...
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