1) Define the following moral theories
Utilitarian consequentialism. Consequentialist moral theories are aimed at some goal and, as the name suggests, the consequences of an action would determine its morality. Utilitarian consequentialism suggests that “actions are right to the degree that they tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number” (Portmore 12).
Kantian duty ethics. It considers the morality of action based on the way the person thinks when making a choice. Kant believes that the only inherently good thing is good will.
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Virtue ethics. This term promotes the role of virtue and character in moral philosophy, rather than considering the consequences of actions (Driver 34).
2) Read the case carefully and answer the questions
- What is the moral problem?
The moral problem in this case is whether Pete’s group should present the plagiarized assignment.
- What are the facts of the case? The facts of the case are:
- Valeria chose to “copy and paste” work from the internet
- Peter knows that Valeria has plagiarized her work but he needs an A
- Valeria promises to take the blame in case Mr. Finley discovers the plagiarism
- Valeria claims to be busy with other coursework and her second job and cannot redo the work
- Who are the stakeholders?
The stakeholders in the case are Pete, Valeria, the other two group members, and Mr. Finley.
3) What moral principles, values and/or virtues are at stake?
The moral values at stake are honesty, integrity, openness, caring, and keeping a promise.
4) Apply each theory to evaluate the above case.
Based on utilitarian consequentialism, it is morally right for Pete’s group to present the plagiarized assignment as long as Mr. Finely does not discover. The consequence of such an action would be that the group would score an A in the assignment. Since the utilitarian theory considers an action to be right if it brings the greatest amount of happiness to most people, getting an A would bring joy to group members (Portmore 35). However, if Mr. Finely discovers the plagiarism, it would have severe consequences to the entire group. In this case, it would be wrong to hand in the plagiarized document. Therefore, the morality of plagiarism in this case depends on whether or not Mr. Finely discovers the plagiarism. Even if Valeria takes the blame, the consequences will remain the same for the entire group because the assignment will not be graded.
According to the Kantian duty of ethics, Valeria was wrong to plagiarize the assignment because she did not do it in good will. Similarly, it would be wrong for Pete to submit the assignment because it is likely to get the group into problems. Since Pete knows about the plagiarism, the best thing to do to maintain the dignity of the group would be to ask Valeria to redo the work or risk being reported to the teacher. It is the duty of the group leader to ensure that every member does his part in the best way possible. He should not make a decision out of inclination. By giving preference to her other jobs, Valeria seems to value herself more than the group’s performance in class. Respect for moral law calls for doing the right thing, but plagiarism is cheating and this is immoral (Driver 45). Just like Valeria, Pete would be wrong to present the plagiarized work because he is aware of the vice.
Based on virtue ethics, it is wrong for Valeria to be irresponsible and present plagiarized work because she is being dishonest. Similarly, Pete would be dishonest to submit the work (Driver 56). Even if Mr. Finley does not find out about the plagiarism and the group gets an A, the grade would not be genuine. It would be better for the group to present its own work and fail than cheat and get an A.
5) What decision or choice allows for the best moral resolution to this case and why?
The best decision to take in this case would be to ask Valeria to redo the work or request the members to join forces and help her out. Valeria should show some respect to her group members if she needs some assistance, rather than being self-centered. Although it is not right to get her into trouble, her action would determine her consequences. Ultimately, Pete should not present the plagiarized work. It would be better to request more time from the teacher to redo Valeria’s part than cheat and pass the paper.