BP 8: A Reflection on the Veil of Ignorance

Last week, James Harris Jackson, a 28-year-old white man, committed a violent hate crime against 66-year-old Timothy Caughman. Jackson boarded a bus in Washington going to Manhattan. He chose New York because he believed that would be the place the murder would get the most media attention. After spotting Mr.Caughman alone collecting cans, Jackson pulled a sword out of his coat and fatally stabbed the innocent man. Jackson openly admitted to planning the crime due to prejudices he has carried against black men since he was a child. AS the authorities questioned Jackson it was clear he loved the attention, he even talked about speaking to the New York Times about his beliefs. Timothy Caughman was a loving man who worked in various anti-poverty programs. Those who were close to him spoke about his love of religion and philosophy.

As hate crimes are showing up in the news more and more frequently, it forces us to question our societies’ view of justice. In John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, we learn that each person is to have an equal right to liberty, and that that liberty should be given in the same amount to everyone. Normal and rational-thinking individuals would agree with this. In order for social cooperation to exist, people must choose to act together. It was obvious that James Harris Jackson was not a rational individual. He overwhelming hate from black men trumped his ability to put himself in anyone else’s shoes. This is exactly opposite of the type of mentality needed to think under the, “veil of ignorance”. In this thought experiment, the individual is able to make decisions without any sort of pre-conceived notion or bias. It pushes for everyone’s basic liberties to be met and for justice to prevail. In this day and age, I think this mentality needs to be discussed and practiced more frequently.

BP #7- Murder in the Bronx

On Thursday night, a man was charged with murder after stealing an ambulance and running over and emergency medical worker in the Bronx. This was not the first time the 25-year-old murderer, Jose Gonzalez, has had a run in with the authorities. Officers say that they have dealt with Gonzalez on multiple occasions, and noted he was a very emotionally disturbed person.

The victim of the terrible crime, Yadira Arroyo, was a 14-year-veteran of the Fire Department, and had five children at home. The episode started when Yadira and her partner received a call around 7:10 p.m., stating that someone was riding on the back bumper of the ambulance. As the two emergency workers stepped out of the vehicle Gonzalez started to walk away, but then quickly turned around and jumped in the driver’s seat. Bystanders were quick to take videos of the scene, and later posted them to Twitter.

There are a couple of factors of this story that force us to question the integrity of the people involved. First off, we must define integrity to further look into its implications. McFall describes integrity as the state of being, “undivided; an integral whole”. She also described an attitude essential to the idea of integrity to be ready to do some things that, “one is not prepared to do, or some things that one must do”. Both of these ideas push the idea of looking outside yourself for the benefit of others.

Obviously Gonzalez was not thinking about anyone but himself when he commited a terrible  crime, and it is easy to say he does not act out of integrity. Given the severity of the crime committed, fact he has had a lot of previous run-ins with the law, it is safe to assume he is somewhat incapable of acting out of integrity.

What’s more interesting is a reflection of the bystanders. No one jumped up to help in what was a dire situation. Without knowing the context, you might think this lack of reaction was out of fear, but if look at the fact that many people were up close taking videos, this explanation seems incorrect. Moreover, the people taking the videos actually posted them to a social media site later in the evening! It is scary to think about how far humans can sink into themselves, pursuing only interests that benefit them directly.

BP 6- Integrity and Olympic Doping

Vladimir Putin finally opened up about the unfair competition Russia has cultivated in the Olympic games through doping.  Although he openly discussed the drug problem, he never directly stated that the government played any part in the cheating. Putin recognized that the Russia’s anti-doping system had failed, but neglected to discuss the Moscow controversy, in which it is estimated 1, 000 athletes were pushed through the monitoring process with drugs in their system. In some years, government officials have been found retesting or even switching out the athlete’s urine samples so that the pass.

This entire controversy brings to question which past Russian victories are honest and fair, and which ones are not. As more research is done, it is possible that the records will need to be rewritten.

The Olympics are intended to be the epitome of full and fair competition. They provide one of the few times the world is able to come together under one roof in peace and appreciation. Putin neglecting to admit to his countries’ unacceptable behavior not only shows a lack of integrity, it compromises the entire Olympic games as a whole.

McFall explains a person of Integrity as someone who is willing to bear the consequences of their actions, even if those consequences are extremely unpleasant. In this case, the repressions may entail the stripping away of Olympics medals and Russia’s total loss of credibility. Instead, Putin is acting in his own interests. He is actively seeking his own pleasure(and that of his country), and because of it there is room for conflict and resolution. Integrity can be found in the reaction of social situations, it is the willingness to hold true to what is good and virtuous. As Russia fights back the truth of the matter, it becomes obvious that they are seeking pleasure and approval on a very shallow level.

This brings forth the implication of power. In unethical situations where it is possible to get away with something, it is part of human nature to do just that. Although we frown upon Vladimir for committing obviously wrong acts, he is acting very similar to the way most of us would given the opportunity.

Blog Post 4- Dr. Belldegrun and the Ring of Gyges

Dr. Belldegrun, a physician who co-founded Kite Pharma has capitalized on America’s desperate need for the cure to cancer. Even without a product on the market, the company is worth about $170 million. In addition to that, the company’s share price has soared to about $50 from an initial price of $17 in 2014. Many attribute the success of Kite to the public’s general excitement over immunotherapy.

The drug Kite is working on will be able to harness the body’s immune system to attack certain cancers, mainly blood, and inevitably save the lives of many. Although Kite is providing a life-saving treatment the public desperately needs, it does come at a cost. The company will reap  an immense financial benefit as American taxpayers will actually be paying twice for the drug, once for research and development, and a second time to buy it.

James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, said, “If this was not a government-funded cancer treatment- if it was for a new solar technology, for example- It would be scandalous to think that some private investors are reaping massive profits off a taxpayer-funded invention”.

Dr. Belldegrun  is a prime example of what Plato believes human nature to consist of. In the “Ring of Gyges”, Plato explains that justice is actually a human artifact or a social construct. Humans are driven completely by self-interest, and not by the interest of others.

As Plato puts it, “A man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity; for wherever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust.”

Although Dr. Belldegrun may look to be a hero on the surface level, a deeper analyzation of his motives reveal he is driven completely by his own interest, and not of those who are in need of the drug.  He is simply a distinguished master of his craft, able to capitalize on the human desire to fight death.

BP #3-Bloomberg on Success and Happiness

From eagle scout, to Harvard, to bond trader at Salomon Brothers, to opening a business on information networking, to becoming three-term mayor of New York city, and to now becoming named the eighth richest man in the world, Michael Bloomberg is the definition of what many would call a successful business man.

In an article found the in New York Times, Bloomberg goes in to detail about his path to success. Being the son of a dairy company accountant, Michael came from a very modest background. Although he admitted to having received help from his parents to get through school, he also stated that he had a job every summer working in the faculty parking lot.

What many do not realize is that Bloomberg did not attribute his journey to success to the things people would normally consider. Bloomberg notes that he was demoted, and ultimately fired from his position at Salomon before it became a part of Citigroup. It was the end of this path that steered him into starting his own company.

Bloomberg also talked about what he views to be successful characteristics in people just entering the workforce saying, “I want the kind of kid with an ethic for taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others. Some of us don’t have much prenatal intelligence, but nevertheless go out and try and have a decent chance of surviving. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but nobody’s going to outwork me.”

We are all at fault of looking at a successful person and assuming not only are they happy, but that they are happy because of what the success has brought them. Referencing Aristotle in his essay, “On The Good Life”, it is easy to assume that Bloomberg’s ultimate happiness has stemmed from three things, pleasure, wealth, and honor. After all, his life seems to be the epitome of each of those things.

Bloomberg discussed what makes him successful, and as success is a vital to many people’s happiness, let’s assume they are directly related. So, as he talked about what has made him successful, through direct relation, he also talked about what makes him happy.

One of the first things I noticed in his interview is that Bloomberg never directly stated his wealth as being a source of his true happiness. In his essay, Aristotle stated that, “wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful for the sake of something else.”

Bloomberg seemed to understand this vital concept as he only referenced money as being crucial to fund his education, and to start his own business. Aristotle had many thoughts on the concept of honor, which is definitely a trait Bloomberg has attained throughout his career. He said that honor is, “Too superficial to be what we are looking for, since it is thought to be too dependent on those who bestow it.” In Bloomberg’s comments stated earlier about successful characteristics in people just entering the workforce, it is clear Bloomberg agrees with Aristotle’s opinion on honor.

Throughout the interview Bloomberg made many comments on the importance of work ethic and diligence. He also stressed the importance of taking care of others. As someone who processes both pleasure and honor, it becomes obvious, that like Aristotle, Bloomberg does not attribute either to his overall success and happiness.

BP #2- A Torturous Deputy Director and a Reflection on Rule Following

Gina Haspel, a long time officer at the clandestine Central Intelligence agency, has assumed the position of C.I.A Deputy Director. This promotion has been upsetting to many as Haspel has been known for the oversight of brutal interrogations in part of the extraordinary rendition program. The now-illegal torture methods were implemented on two terrorism suspects who were detained in a secret prison located in Thailand.

After the torture methods were deemed illegal, Haspel also took part in destroying the videotapes, which has been another major source of concern. Although the torture methods included things like waterboarding and slamming the prisoner’s heads into walls, the view within the C.I.A was that those who used the techniques were just doing their jobs.

The conflicting views of Gina Haspel’s promotion became obvious this past Thursday in Congress as it served as another issue republicans and democrats are completely divided by. The Democratic party has voiced concern on how Haspel will approach the torture issue, and the Republican party praised the decision to move her up.

The opposing views surrounding this event bring forth the question of professional responsibility. In this instance it is clear that our political parties are divided on how they perceived Haspel’s pervious actions, but on both sides of the spectrum there is acknowledgment of rule following. The difference in belief can be argued to be the category of rule following Haspel falls into.

It is very possible that the brutal interrogations committed were a product of strict obedience. In this sector of rule following we completely ignore our own judgment and listen to the decisions of someone else who is usually higher up than we are. When thinking under the mindset of strict obedience, it is common for an individual to stop reasoning and asking questions. This can be dangerous because not all rules are cut and dry, and additional human interpretation is need to ensure that no serious harm is committed. This situation seems fitting of this mindset as it would be harder for someone to repeatedly bring bodily harm onto another individual without remorse if there wasn’t a powerful person telling them to do so.

Some may also argue that Haspel’s actions were a result of interpretive obedience. While following a mindset of interpretative obedience, the individual is not enchained to the ideas of another, but rather understanding of the purpose of rules and when it’s appropriate to interpret them differently. In this instance, Haspel was clearly aware of the rule she was told to follow, but who’s to say that she did it solely because she was told to do so. The people she allowed to be tortured were terrorist suspects who possibly held information concerning the safety of the American public. After analyzing the specific situation and contemplating the certain mistakes, it is possible that Haspel committed to the rule she was told to follow as a public service.