Dudley and Stephens

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Morality In "Queen Vs. Dudley And Stephens"

1. In the case of Queen vs. Dudley and Stephens, was the killing of the cabin boy, Richard Parker, morally wrong? Relate your answer to one or more of the following ethical theories: Aristotelian ethics, Hobbesian ethics, Utilitarianism, or Kantian ethics. Be sure to give a summary of the main points of the theory, as well as drawing out its implications for the case.

In the case of Dudley and Stephens, the murder of Richard Parker cannot be justified as being morally permissible. Our society functions on certain base principles, one of them being that there are some things which are forbidden, that particular actions or measures can never be correct due to their nature. Murder is an action which qualifies as being fundamentally wrong, it can never be said that murder is the right thing to do, because no matter the context, murder is in no way a morally permissible course of action.

While it is true that all of the crew members would most certainly have died if Parker had not been slain, that is still not enough reason to have permitted the murder. Even if the boy had been consulted on the matter and he had subsequently granted his consent, the act of murder still cannot be justified. There is no situation so dire (excluding warfare and self-defense) to warrant the voluntary taking of another human being’s life. Although the crew had already gone numerous days without any form of nourishment, murder was still not the proper course of action. The boy was near death, and perhaps if they had waited just another day he would have died naturally, and then they could have used his body.

This standpoint of murder never being the right decision is supported by Aristotle’s theory of “virtue ethics”. His theory states that we should live our lives according to principles of virtue and morality, and this will lead to an attainment of happiness. Aristotle says that not all of our actions should be virtuous, as an...
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