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Bob is a nice guy and goes out of his way to give joe a good deal on his car. Bob sells the car to Joe for 3k, even though it is worth 4k. The next day, Joe sells the car, exactly as he received it, for 4k.
While not being totally wrong, I think in your example it does violate the spirit in which Bob made the deal. He was probably expecting Joe to drive the car and gave him a good deal. As it turned out Joe was all about the money. While being a perfectly OK business, I do think it would probably ruin a friendship.
Nothing intrinsically unethical assuming there is not more to the story. Did Joe mislead Bob in some way? Honestly, I would immediately think less of Joe if he retaliated. The car was Bobs’ to do with what he pleased.
It’s a good question because it provokes us to ask ourselves what is our motivation for doing a good deed? Is the value of Joes generousity lessened by Bob’s decision? I don’t think so.
Say I give five dollars to a homeless man who claims he will spend it on food. Whether he actually does so is out of my hands. I have done the best I can to help someone in need with the knowledge I have.
If we lack the information to make a better decision our course is not to seek a culprit but, rather, to better inform ourselves.
These points seem simple and obvious to me but they are lost in the morass of our legal system with its bizarre precedents for third party liability and punitive damages.
It isn’t clear that trust or loyalty has been broken in your hypothetical. If Joe in any way misled Bob, then I think selling the car to make a profit would be wrong. As to whether an action that betrays a trust can be good, the answer is yes. If a close friend of mine tells me in confidence they are going to commit an act of terrorism, it would be unethical for me not to betray that confidence.
Also, many actions that are not ethically wrong can ruin a friendship. Human beings, being emotional creatures, may have their ethical judgment clouded by jealousy, anger, envy, etc.
So if something is not wrong, why would it then ruin a friendship?
The same way it would put friends off if you never loaned, only rented your stuff to them, and if you charged interest if you loaned them money, yet there’s nothing at all inherently wrong with rental businesses or bank loans.
Michael - 25 July 2009 09:02 AM
Can an action that betrays trust and loyalty be good?
Possibly, but not likely in the context of the OP.
Seems to me Bob’s a dumb ass and Joe’s an asshole.
Or something like that. Certainly not a moral issue in any serious way.
When I first read the OP, I thought it described a terrible example of morality. Now I see it as a beautiful example of morality, as it so clearly spells out the absurdity of morality ultimatums. Laws are difficult enough at times for plenty of people, with evidence available in the current quantities of inmates, at least in the U.S. Precisely what it spells out is that what is referred to as morality is simply (or not so simply, depending on surrounding issues) vaguely-derived analysis of the various combinations of—for the most part, unspoken—communication involving reciprocity, mutual demands for respect/loyalty, and judgments about honesty. Why attempt to determine whether something is right or wrong using religious tones of voice?
I tend to agree with unknown zone (ps. greetings to you) that this is not a moral issue. What is interesting might be Bob’s reasons for giving Joe the sweet deal. What did Bob expect (if anything at all) in return for his generous gesture? If his act was merely an expression of pure friendship and he wanted Joe’s appreciation in some way - then Bob just got called a “dumb ass” by Joe. Surely these two actions will change the dynamic of their relationship and Bob might look at Joe as an “ass hole” in the future.
Interestingly, Joe might actually appreciate Bob’s gesture as a show of how much he values their friendship, but turning that friendship into cash is hardly a proper way to respond in kind. In my estimation the actions of these two persons expresses aspects of their character that are valuable in making larger conclusions about the measure of their moral compass, but whether these acts are right or wrong in a strict sense, it is more difficult to say.
Interestingly, Joe might actually appreciate Bob’s gesture as a show of how much he values their friendship, but turning that friendship into cash is hardly a proper way to respond in kind.
That depends. I know I’ve given friends that same kind of deal at times in the past when they’ve been dealing with hard times. My goal was to help them out, not to produce some sort of monument to our friendship to be displayed like a trophy. In some of those cases I’ve even encouraged those friends to get as much profit as they could from turning around and selling the item (the last one was an instrument).
The point was to help them out, not to give them a friendship trophy.