Living in society, a person cannot but interact with its active components. The highest form of morality implies the principle according to which every individual should act with others in the way he or she would like to act with them. In other words, if a person expects a display of friendliness from others, he or she should be the first to demonstrate positive qualities. A person who has mastered more complex forms of morality definitely has an understanding of the principles of justice. He or she tends to follow the moral standards that apply to him or her in its various provisions and are governed by public approval and censure.
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If a person has committed a misdemeanor, he or she should be punished by the principles of justice. However, the other party, called mercy, defends the opposite view (Sigler, 2015). Mercy implies that a person should show love and compassion for others (“Justice and mercy,” n.d.).
One of the Ten Commandments urges people to show sympathy and empathy for their neighbors. The consistent distinction between mercy and justice is reflected in the philosophical tradition of understanding the golden rule as ethics of justice and the commandment of love as ethics of mercy. In this context, justice and mercy are perceived as two fundamental virtues corresponding to different spheres of moral experience and, accordingly, basic levels of morality (“Justice and mercy,” n.d.). Justice and mercy, as human qualities of character, are dual-contradictory. Guided by the norms of justice, a person can punish a criminal, but according to the postulates of mercy, an individual who has sinned should be forgiven.
In this example, the ethical dilemma arising as a choice between mercy and justice is investigated. Of course, everyone must be responsible for the actions that he or she commits (Sigler, 2015). In this case, however, the police leave the question of punishment to the person whose food was stolen by the thief (Sigler, 2015). Initially, emotions that are likely to be harmful should be left aside. Decisions that will have an impact on others should be made in a balanced and calm manner.
In such situations, it is essential to understand what exactly drove the perpetrator of the theft. He or she may have done so simply because he or she wanted to harm the victim, or maybe the criminal act was motivated by the need to feed his or her starving family. Only after finding out the specific motives can we talk about what lies ahead for the thief.
In reality, it is difficult to find out the motives: there is no guarantee that the criminal will tell the truth. In this case, the entire responsibility for making decisions falls on the victim’s shoulders. The dilemma surrounding him includes two possible scenarios: the offender can be forgiven and released, or the offender must be punished because he has committed the crime. The desire to let him go maybe a response to the view that stealing food is not a severe crime, and the thief does not deserve to be punished. However, there is no evidence that the released thief will not commit such theft after a few days or maybe even hours.
On the other hand, the desire to punish the offender with complete seriousness can be regarded as anger and a negative attitude towards people. In such a situation, the gravity of the crime can be disproportionate to the guilt which will be betrayed to the thief.
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The final result, which the victim can come to, based on the most developed ethical model, is to use the principles of justice. The moral code implies that the person must be responsible for the actions committed, and in this case, the thief who stole food must be punished. However, the punishment may not necessarily take the form of imprisonment or a hefty monetary fine. A good option for such a situation would be to award the offender correctional labor so that he or she could learn a particular lesson from the situation.
Justice and mercy. (n.d.). Web.
Sigler, M. (2015). Equity, not mercy. In C. Flanders & Z. Hoskins (Eds.), The new philosophy of the criminal law (pp. 1-27). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield International.