introduction to Ethics

Dr. Christina Sommers is an advocate for teaching virtue ethics. Her article (web link reading) Teaching the Virtues focuses on a problem she sees in today’s society with the lack of virtue.

Answer the following questions:

[1] With a friend, fellow worker or family member, discuss the case of Edward Snowden, a computer specialist who had worked for the CIA but who came to believe the U.S. government overstepped its bounds in spying on the American people (and others) the way it does and so he leaked top secret U.S. documents to the news media so the public could know. The May 2014 edition of Vanity Fair calls Snowden “the most important whistle-blower of modern times … whose disclosures will reverberate for decades to come” (Vanity Fair, 2014, Barrough, Andrew, & Sullivan, p.153).

Was this action of Snowden an act of virtue as a courageous whistle blower or the act of a traitor? What virtue or vice do you see in the actions of Edward Snowden? How should he be treated by the American people and their government for what he did and why?

Snowden interview from Hong Kong (he’s now living in Russia): “You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk … if they want to get you, they’ll get you in time. But, at the same time, you have to make a determination about what it is that’s important to you. … Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded … And it’s getting to the point that you don’t have to have done anything wrong; you just simply have to fallen under suspicion for something.” (For some background and then Snowden interview, click here LINK (Links to an external site.))

If you’re interested to find out what Snowden is doing today as he lives in Russia, here is a video interview with Snowden from September 2019 in Russia. It starts out with a quick summary of what happened in 2013: LINK (Links to an external site.).

[2] Speak with a friend, fellow worker or family member and explain to them Aristotle’s idea of virtue as the “golden mean” and then ask them whether they think this theory makes sense or not and why (for a quick review of Aristotle’s view of the Good Life and how the Golden Mean works, see this video: (LINK (Links to an external site.)). The Golden Mean is discussed in our eText on page 64. What about you, do you agree with Aristotle’s understanding of virtue as a “golden mean” between two extremes? Why or why not? Give an example of a virtue that either supports or contradicts Aristotle’s Golden Mean theory.

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