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Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is an ethical approach stemming from virtue theory inspired by Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher (384-322 BCE). It discusses the type of person that an individual should become to live an ethical life and thus emphasizes persons and character as opposed to responsibilities and consequences of actions (Banks, 2017). In the criminal justice system, virtue ethics relies on the idea of a good person engaging in virtuous acts. And one has to be upright to engage in such actions. In essence, one does what is right due to their desirable character, displayed throughout their life. As such, the pleasing act requires less thought, for it is an automatic response.

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An individual who has shown good character in the entirety of their life will demonstrate the same traits such as temperance and wisdom when confronted with a complex ethical problem. In such instances, they ask themselves what kind of person they should be instead of what they should do (Banks, 2017). They, as a result, recognize their need to be virtuous and are highly likely to act virtuously and in accordance with the law.

Virtue ethics also involves happiness that is associated with the quality of life of an individual. In this context, the emphasis is on virtues and vices. The former encompasses a person’s character strengths that enable them to flourish and advance their well-being, while the latter are the weaknesses that hinder flourishing and well-being (Banks, 2017). The criminal justice system requires its officers to possess these virtues, and persons who demonstrate the virtues are appealing to law enforcement agencies. The virtues include but are not limited to tolerance, compassion, justice, honesty, self-control, and moderation (Banks, 2017). Most law enforcement agencies recognize the aforementioned virtues as significant features of an ethical officer.

Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism holds that everyone needs to pursue their self-interest and consider such an act reasonable and moral. It is a theory that addresses how individuals should behave (Banks, 2017). There is no other duty besides doing what is best for one’s interest. If one engages in an act that seems selfless and noble, it probably grants them satisfaction somehow. Still, engaging in the act may prove helpful to its recipient.

In the criminal justice system, ethical egoism can help in explaining why certain law enforcement officers constantly put themselves in dangerous situations. For instance, it can explain why a law enforcement officer would pursue a suspect to a dangerous neighborhood or a dark building without calling for help or waiting for it to arrive. The officer would be praised and considered unselfish by most, but proponents of egoism would cite other reasons, including the need for media attention, personal satisfaction, or praise among colleagues to explain his actions.

Ethical egoism can also assist law enforcers in understanding why criminals engage in selfish acts since the philosophy prohibits compassion and concern for other people. In this context, it suggests that the officers ought to be empathetic towards the selfish criminals to understand their actions that are undoubtedly a result of ethical egoism instead of being self-centered. The philosophy can also explain misconduct on the part of the officers. Abuse of authority entrusted to the officers by society can be viewed as egotistical. In this regard, the officers’ actions are self-serving, for they are not looking out for the interests of the general public and their agency.

Rawlsian Theory

The Rawlsian theory is a morality theory developed by John Rawls and aims to provide a different approach to utilitarian thought. The theory emphasizes people’s rights as opposed to the means-end approach of thinking employed in utilitarianism (Banks, 2017). It presents the principles that govern individuals’ sense of justice. According to the theory, two distinct features exist in moral individuals; a sense of justice and the capability of seeking a conception of what is good (Banks, 2017). The development of the aforementioned capabilities in moral persons requires the creation of a society and an agreement on its governing principles through a fair process that is planned and conceived with fair conditions.

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Rawlsian theory can be significant in the criminal justice system due to its orientation toward liberalism. It also lays the foundation that the criminal justice system should seek in a diverse and democratic society. The theory, as Banks (2017) indicates, advocates for a just society in which “no one will gain an advantage or suffer a disadvantage because of his or her particular circumstances in society” (p. 581). In such a society, justice primarily emphasizes fairness, and a fair world ensures that human rights and freedoms are safeguarded. These human rights include, among others, the right to a fair hearing, the right to security, the right to life and equality before the law, and freedom from slavery, discrimination, and torture are significant to the criminal justice system. As such, applying the theory can assist the law enforcers in ensuring that they safeguard the above-mentioned rights and freedoms and maintain fairness in their dispensation of justice. Finally, law enforcement agencies will have an easier task enforcing the law in a society where individuals treat one another fairly.

Reference

Banks, C. (2017). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice (4th ed.). SAGE Publications.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 26). Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/virtue-ethics-ethical-egoism-and-rawlsian-theory-to-the-criminal-justice-system/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 26). Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System. https://studycorgi.com/virtue-ethics-ethical-egoism-and-rawlsian-theory-to-the-criminal-justice-system/

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StudyCorgi. "Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System." June 26, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/virtue-ethics-ethical-egoism-and-rawlsian-theory-to-the-criminal-justice-system/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System." June 26, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/virtue-ethics-ethical-egoism-and-rawlsian-theory-to-the-criminal-justice-system/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Virtue Ethics, Ethical Egoism, and Rawlsian Theory to the Criminal Justice System'. 26 June.

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