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Case Brief: ‘A Life for a Life?’

My Take

For money or for virtue?  This is a question that many lawyers and politicians must make.  For people in jobs like these, they are put in a position in which they are forced to decide either to do what they believe is right, or do what will guarantee them another paycheck.  The case brief "A Life for a Life?" is about a House Member named Manny who needs to make a decision to vote for or against a bill that will get the death-penalty statute off the books in Florida (A Life for a Life). With second term elections coming up, and outside opinions clashing, Manny needs to make a firm decision.  According to Virtue Ethics and Aristotle’s Philosophy, it would be unethical and, therefore, wrong for Manny to approve the bill that will get the death-penalty statute off the books in Florida because it would be going against key virtues in Manny’s life.

Aristotle was a philosopher who thought that Virtue Ethics was the ethical and moral way to look at the world and to evaluate what was moral or immoral (Fiala, Andrew, and MacKinnion, Barbara 151). The virtue ethics theory emphasizes one’s character and virtues (Athanassoulis, Nafsika). Rights and wrongs are based off of the person’s character and their reasons for doing or not doing an action. The proper route is in pursuit of the golden mean, or the middle road between two vices, which are the two extremes in a situation (Aristotle 104). With that in mind, I will evaluate Manny and his decision to vote for or against removing the death-penalty statute off the books in Florida.

Manny’s wife, Pina, is a kindergarten teacher. Consequently, she believes that “sexual predators seem to be impossible to reform and that the death penalty was the only way to safeguard society, especially the children” and is therefore a supporter of the death penalty (A Life for a Life). Of course, Manny agrees with this point of view. If Manny failed to oppose the bill that would remove the death-penalty statute from Florida law, it would be dishonest to his own ethical code. Honesty is a virtue, which not only means being truthful in speech, but also in action (Aristotle 104).  Since Manny believes that the death penalty should be applied to certain people for their crimes, it would be dishonest of him to let the death penalty be taken off the books in Florida, which in turn would be unethical.

In the past, Manny voted to restrict the death penalty to adults, which might have given the impression that Manny was against the death penalty. The reason for this seemingly out of character decision was because Manny believes that “the death penalty was inappropriate for minors” (A Life for a Life).  Unfortunately, this led Alice Browner, an unpaid lobbyist for the bill, to believe that Manny would vote to discontinue the death penalty in Florida. Because of this, the next time Manny and Browner saw each other, she tried to convince Manny to vote in favor of the bill.  Though this places new pressure on Manny, he must stand up for what he believes in.  This virtue is called justice and entails doing what is within one’s power to advance society’s morality (Aristotle 104).  Manny believes that it would be better for society if the death penalty remained an option for adult offenders. Therefore, if Manny does not vote no on this bill, then his decision would be unethical for not following the virtue of justice.

Manny also has children and if these criminals were allowed to live, he would have to live with the knowledge that he was not trying to make the world safer for his children.  Conversely, Manny needs to be able to support his family, which will be difficult if he is not reelected, as well as be able to support Pina as she pursues her master’s degree so that she can keep her job.  On top of these complications, their oldest child is in college, which presents further financial drain. The family is counting on the money from his second term for all these expenses. Manny has a duty to his family, which relates to the virtue of responsibility. The virtue of responsibility simply means doing one’s duty, and therefore if Manny lost his job over this election, then he would not be fulfilling his duties to his family (Athanassoulis, Nafsika). Fortunately, this would be the only virtue that Manny would fail to meet by voting no on the bill being discussed. Isn’t it more important for Manny to be an honest person rather than a wealthy one?  The family won’t be poor, they will just not be as well off. He will still have an income of $6,000 to cover basic expenses, though this is no longer enough for the family to afford their yearly vacations.

The obvious answer would be for Manny to vote no on the bill that will get the death penalty statute off the books in Florida bill. It would be wrong for Manny to vote the death penalty off the books in Florida because it would be dishonest and unjust of him. It may be hard for Manny, especially because he voted that the death penalty no longer apply to children and his job might be at stake. The question really is whether Manny truly is a virtuous man.



Works Cited:

A Life for a Life. Moodle PDF. Web. 29, Oct. 2015.

<http://moodle.dominican.edu/mod/resource/view.php?id=246246 >.

Aristotle. The Ethics of Aristotle: The Nichomachaen Ethics. Trans. J. K. Thomson.

New York: Viking, 1995. Print.

Athanassoulis, Nafsika. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer Reviewed

Academic Resource. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. n.d. Web. 29, Oct. 2015. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtue/>.

Fiala, Andrew, and MacKinnion, Barbara. Ethics Theory and Contemporary Issues.

Stanford: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

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