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In 2007 the Star Ledger newspaper told of a young man (unnamed for his own protection) in Newark who witnessed a murder while walking home one day. It was a territorial drug dispute that didn’t even involve the murder victim who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man who witnessed the murder recognized a couple of the assailants who also recognized him. He ran and wasn’t found until police discovered him during investigations.
He knew the right thing but he also knew he could put himself, his wife, and young child in danger. There are laws to protect witnesses in NJ but these laws are not always effective. Some witnesses to such murders had been murdered by gang members eager to protect themselves.
The man in the news article eventually agreed to testify when police promised to relocate him and his family to Puerto Rico.
For our discussions this week, answer the following questions and then interact with the postings of others.
1) Talk to another person you know about Kant’s moral principle of a categorical duty to never make yourself the exception to a duty you’d expect others to follow (the categorical imperative). What does this person think about it? Do either of you believe there is ever such a thing as an unquestionable moral duty and, if so, how would that apply to the murder witness in this case? If you think a witness to such a murder would be right to say nothing, explain if and when it is ever justifiable to follow a duty that could seriously cost you personally.
2) From the article “How to be True to Your Word” (LINK (Links to an external site.)), do you think the following statement about lying is true? Share your thoughts: “We may think our lying is for a good reason: to keep from insulting or wounding someone we care about, to avoid our own discomfort, to smooth over conflict or to make someone happy. Really, though, we most often lie to make our own reality more comfortable” (Cat Thompson, “How to be True to Your Word”, Experience Life, 2012). What about the so-called “white lie”? Is this kind of lie, sometimes called a pro-social lie, something morally justifiable as you see it, or not?
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