Jean Valjean and Ethical Theories

Topics: Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, Morality Pages: 2 (920 words) Published: October 8, 2011
Jean Valjean, Stole a loaf of bread and was sentenced to 19 years in jail. The loaf of bread was for his neice who was starving. After being released, he could have continued to act like the criminal everyone thought he was. He was depressed and absolutely hated the system that allowed him to have such cruel punishment. Luckily he was saved by the Bishop of Digne who through Love and kindness, helped Valjean get back on his feet and create a better life for himself. Valjean went off and built a successful business in which he employs most of his fellow townspeople. He has become mayor and a public benefactor. He learns that another man, a feeble-minded old beggar, has been arrested as Jean Valjean and will be sent to prison for a life of hard labor. The real Jean Valjean then decides that it is his moral duty to reveal who he is, even if it means he will be sent back to prison.

I think that Immanuel Kant would say that Jean Valjean was an extremely moral human being. That choice he made was purely based on Good Will and by reasoning. Since Kant would say that Valjean had a duty to himself and since we are built this way and even after being in prison himself and knowing that this man will now have to go through the system that ruined his own life it was still his duty to turn himself in. The consequences didn’t matter since he was built to make such a choice to begin with. He must follow his moral rule inside himself. I think that act utilitarian’s would also say that his decision was a somewhat moral one; He took this decision and decided what to do based on his intuition for this moment. At the same time, since they downplay the consequences, and utilitarian’s usually say that what is moral in any given situation is to maximize the good effects…so if Valjean was following this theory he would have not turned himself in. Since the greater good for the community and himself would have been to not tell the truth. I think that Rule utilitarian’s would say,...
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