Moral reasoning: Unpunished Wrong
Indeed, is it better to be done wrong than to do wrong? Or is it better to do wrong and get away with it? And as William Shakespeare once asked, to be or not to be, that is the question.
There are two types of evil: natural and moral evil, each defined based on their causes. (Miller 363) In this case we are looking at moral evil, which spring from the human will. It is thus better if we consider the consequences of our actions and to what extent they do matter. In Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy, Ed L. Miller disagrees that our actions either moral or otherwise cannot be judged on the basis of their consequences. He cites both teleological and deontological theories which differ on this issue: The teleological theory lays emphasis on results of actions as the test of their rightfulness, while deontological theory emphasizes on performance of duty not the results as the measure of right action. (432)
There must be a middle line between these two theories such that, they both have instances where they are justifiable. From the deontological point of view, when wrong occurs as a function of duty, then that wrong is invariably relevant not only to the wrong doer but also to the society at large: For in its occurrence it can serve as a precedence of a particular way of not to discharge a duty. In this case, that wrong done will hardly be hidden by the virtue that it is self-expository.
Now, since consequence cannot be ignored. (486) It is better that a wrong doer be unveiled and punished for his decisions to do wrong, even if it was so compelled by duty. This will serve a social value to the rest to observe restraint, so that in the undertaking of their duties or making their decisions they may not protect others and themselves from wrong; failure to which evil will thrive in the dark.
On the other hand, it’s arguably civil that it’s better to be done wrong than to do it yourself. But the problem is than some of the wrong done unto one might propel him to do further wrong. Anything that demeans the dignity of another, or destroys their happiness shouldn’t be condoned.
Miller ‘Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy’ God and Evil (1984): 309
Miller ‘Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy’ Hedonism (1984): 431, 432
Miller ‘Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy’ The Role of Duty (1984) 486