Inquiry: Which specific quality determines whether a person is “good” or “bad.

Hello fellow writers and philosophers.

Lately I have been pondering a concept: What is the specific quality that deems a person as good or bad? One might quickly jump to the conclusion that a good person is simply a person who is good to other people and a bad person is the opposite; or at least that’s what Google says. Allow me to explain, fellow philosopher, why that theory is not necessarily true.

Imagine for a moment, this scenario which upon late has caused me to reconsider my definition of a good or bad person.

Late on a freezing, winter night, a man is walking home through the city from his job as a janitor at a local community center.  That day, as he listened to the radio, weather forecasters had warned of temperatures reaching as low as -20°C by around now. “The things I would do to own a car to get me home right now,” he thought as he coughed and shoved his frost-bitten fingers into his thin jacket pockets. He would also do a lot of things to have a thicker, warmer jacket but this was the only one he could afford. Despite a paycheck that was smaller than he would have liked, the man loved his job as a janitor. Getting to see all the folks who often came around to the community center made the cleanup and low income worth it. Nearly home, the man is passing the local pharmacy when he is stopped by a nearly inaudible voice.

“Sir… D-Do you h-have any m-money?” a pale, tiny, shivering woman covered in nothing but thin blankets looked up at the man as she clung to a newborn in her arms. Her hair was in messy, uncombed strands and she huddled down on the ground, trying to retain the heat that the violent winter winds kept robbing.

Seeing that this homeless woman was in trouble, the man felt inside his pockets for cash only to come up dry. His income allowed him only $10 of spending money a day if he were to maintain decent savings and a back account. These $10 had been spent on his only meal that day.

“No, m’am I’m afraid not. What do you need? Maybe I can get it.”

“Sinus medicine for my baby. He’s got a cold.”

The man felt such sympathy for the woman as he watched her shiver on the ground with pleading eyes. She was half-frozen, struggling here on the street yet her heart longed only to help her baby. He wished he could dash up to his apartment and grab some blankets for the woman and her baby; surely they would get hypothermia and die if they stayed out there any longer. However he only had one blanket which was thin, filled with holes and over 5 years old. She desperately needed help and it killed the man that there was nothing he could do about it…unless…

The man made a quick check for cameras over both of his shoulders before carefully turning his glance to the pharmacy doors. They weren’t that rigid and no one was really around on the streets but him and the woman. His locksmith uncle had given him a few lessons on breaking locks when he was younger. The man fancied he could help the woman after all; if not by giving her something, then by getting her something.

“Just a minute, m’am. Wait right here.”

The man broke out in a brisk walk towards the pharmacy doors. He knew that breaking in to stores was illegal and risky, but he could not have to death of that woman and her baby on his hands. It took the man only a few seconds before the locksmith techniques of his uncle return before he was in the building. Pulling out his work flashlight to navigate his way through the aisles, he located the medicine and was off escaping to the door. He had never done something so risky in his life and he couldn’t believe he was getting away with it. He was almost to the doors when he accidentally kicked over a decorative display in his scurry. The sensors detected the loud noise and the alarms of the pharmacy started ringing.

He sprinted out and threw the box of medicine to the woman in his wild dash to get out. “Hope it helps,” is all he said before he continued all the way to his apartment hoping the police didn’t catch him. The next day, police were at the man’s door to arrest him; they were able to identify him from the security cameras in the pharmacy. The man was found guilty at his court trial and sentenced to a month in jail. During his time in jail, the woman came to see the man and to thank him for the deed he did for her. She told him that as police, firetrucks and ambulances crowded around the pharmacy area that night, one ambulance driver saw the state of her baby and took it to the hospital for care. The nurse had told the woman that the hospital was low on sinus medicine and had it not been for the janitor’s stolen medicine, the baby would have died.

So, fellow writers and philosophers, after carefully pondering this scenario, my question is: Was the man good or bad and which specific quality makes him that way? It is clear that he has unnecessarily done something illegal by breaking in and stealing from a pharmacy. The doctors and pharmacists have been robbed of medicine and potential income by this man. It is also clear, that the man has done something good by selflessly saving the life of the woman’s child. Or was that deed unnecessary and the janitor’s fault for getting involved in other people’s business? You tell me readers, which perspectives on the man should determine what he truly is? Should the perspective of the law, which sees the man as a criminal, deem his a villain or does the perspective of the woman, which sees him as a life saver, overpower the law’s view?

Additional questions to consider are: How valid is the law to be judging the janitor when the law would readily let a freezing woman and her baby die of hypothermia rather than have a medicine box robbed. For those who consider the man good, if the woman’s baby, now in better health, turns out to become a mass murder in the future, was the man who saved it still good? I’m very interested in hearing the public’s opinion on this scenario or different definitions of a good person. Please feel free to comment your answer to these questions.


Copyright © 2016 by Imani-Amour
All rights reserved. This publication or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in written works.

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