Analyzing the Parable of the Sadhu

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Business ethics Pages: 5 (1571 words) Published: February 7, 2006
Egoism: Does the action promote the person's long term interest.

Here the question is what action promotes McCoy's & the hiker's interest. The main purpose of all the hikers was to travel to Nepal and have a "once in a life time experience". It is conceivable that this is consistent with everyone's best interests, while helping the Sadhu is clearly not. Action was ethical. However the fact that McCoy feels guilty reflects that he was unable to promote his long term interest. Hence it becomes ambiguous to justify his actions.

Kantian Ethics: Should abide by the following 2 principles:

*Maxim should become a universal law

*Never treat people simply as means to an end but always at the same time as ends in themselves

In the parable, Stephen says that the hikers would have treated the Sadhu differently if he had been from the same ethnic group as them. However Kantian principle forbids such behaviour. One should treat all equally irrespective of ethnicity, caste, sex etc.

Further, if they were treating the Sadhu as a worthy human being, they should have understood that saving a human life is far more valuable than accomplishing a goal.

Under this principle the action was unethical. However one of the shortcomings to Kantian ethics is that it does not give priority for duties. If as a hiker my foremost duty is to complete my hike then in that case the duty of saving a human life may fall below it. In this case the moral character of a person will tell which duty one must follow.

Veil of Ignorance: The key is that people make decisions based on what is good for their community as a whole, and without regard to their own self-interest (since they operate behind a veil of ignorance and don't know enough about what would benefit them).

Now suppose that all the 3 hiking parties & Sadhu had met before in Nepal before they were given there identities. In this state all wore the Veil as each was unaware of respective roles & upcoming challenges. A case can be made that all the hikers were ethical. Not knowing beforehand who would need help and who would be able to offer help, no one can be held for the condition of Sadhu. All have equal freedom - no one is forced to help anyone else, nor has anyone been allowed to hurt anyone else.

Given the social inequality in this parable, Rawl's difference principle is upheld. Sadhu is indeed better off with the inequality. If the hikers were of the same status, then they would not be able to help the Sadhu and his death would have been more certain. Hence we can say that the 'letter of the law" had been observed.

Utilitarianism: Greatest good of the greatest number

The hikers' combined enjoyment of this once-in-each-of-their-lifetimes experience, plus their combined absence of pain in not risking their own safety, plus the assuagement of guilt which each was allowed by doing the little each one did for the Sadhu, may, despite the continued danger to the Sadhu involved in this choice, easily sum to a larger utility than would helping the Sadhu minus the expense of the hike and risk to the hikers.

Rule may be adopted such as the following, which could easily justify the actions of the hikers:-

"Whenever I am hiking in a difficult terrain which is exotic for me, under brutal weather conditions, and believe that I will not have an opportunity to repeat this rare and wonderful experience, I will aid a stranger in need to the extent that I may also finish the hike while it is possible for me to do so". This can be generalized and still be relevant.

Act utilitarianism: Consequences of a particular event

The case does not provide details about the feeling of guilt by New Zealanders, Japanese or the Swiss. However Stephen does feel guilty and he should have tried to garner support to help the Sadhu. But he failed and hence he may be considered guilty. But then Stephen was the only one who actually realized the seriousness of the situation. He was the one who...
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