A plane makes an emergency crash landing on a deserted tropical island. Two dozen survivors must fend for themselves until help arrives. All of them are from large cities, and none of them has camping experience. The survivors ﬁnd it impossible to gatherenough food, and everyone begins losing weight. One person spends a lot of time by himself and ﬁgures out how to catch ﬁsh. He brings ﬁsh back to camp. Others ask him to teach them how to catch ﬁsh. He refuses, but offers to share the ﬁsh he has caught with the other passengers as long as they take care of the other camp chores, such as hauling fresh water, gathering ﬁrewood, and cooking.
1. Write 1-2 paragraphs explaining why the fisherman’s position is morally wrong.
2. Write 1-2 paragraphs explaining why the fisherman’s position is morally acceptable.
Refer to the major ethical theories as necessary to support your arguments.
In this scenario, the fisherman is behaving equitably, at least by the standards we live by in this society. We, as students, are spending time at university to gain knowledge, and skills in the hope that once we leave (if it is our intention to do so), we’d be able to practice as professionals, and pay people to do those things we don’t want to do. In order to achieve this we sacrifice a few years of our life, in which we could do other things, including earning an income, to study, and learn.
This is good for society, as having people specialising in certain fields leads to them being better at doing their job in that particular field, and leads to a spirit of cooperation arising from mutual need in the community. A doctor can’t live without a plumber, and a plumber can’t live without a doctor, unless both decide to learn each other’s trade. Most people find specialising in one or two things easier, more rewarding, and more useful than being ‘the jack of all trades’. Learning absolutely everything about everything is also impossible. This is why we have specialists.
One can argue that the fisherman is no different from a student, or apprentice. He’s spent time, in isolation, and developed a new skill, when he could be doing other things, like, say, socialising with the other survivors. He now has a skill which is marketable.
We also live in a capitalist society, where ones labour contribution is reflected in monetary reward. One can argue that the fisherman is simply being a capitalist. He has a skill that no one else has, which leads to a product that everyone else wants. He’s simply marketing his skill.
By doing what he’s best at, the fisherman is doing service to his community, and his expectation of being rewarded, in a sense, by not having to do tasks he dislikes, or isn’t as good at, is justified.