This is an essay I formed from a prompt for an ethics class about a government agent who finds out that illegal surveillance is occurring. This agent asked for Aristotle’s advised on what to do. Hence I formed this essay based on how I believe this philosopher may have responded. This essay is relevant to the current event which involved Snowden.
Ethics of 24-Hour Surveillance
Dear unidentified agent,
Ethically this illegal surveillance that is happening is immoral; the first duty of political establishments is to do the good for the city verses the good of the individuals, or the political figures using this surveillance to their advantage. (I.2, p.2) Every craft or means of employment must seek out the highest good through their service and be held accountable when they are not. They must seek an end that is good and make a habit of seeking good. Through this breach of privacy they are not seeking the highest good; rather, they are reaching a vice for they are micromanaging the nation. They are going way too far. It makes sense to keep track of suspicious characters yet they are violating every person’s privacy.
The government needs to be an example for this nation. Moral is a result of habit. For example if a person abstains from pleasure it helps to make them become temperate. (II.2 p.20) Hence if the politicians are not practicing the morals of implementing justice how can they expect the people to do the same? By revealing this abominable crime it will show the public that wrongdoings will not go unpunished and hopefully prevent future wrongdoing, concerning both the government and the citizens of this nation.
However, this plan of telling the nation of this horrifying news could backfire too, similar to the recent case with Edward Snowden who was forced to go into hiding for the executing moral justice for the nation as whole. “Further each person judges rightly what he knows, and is a good judge about that; hence the good judge in a given area is the person educated in that area and the unqualifiedly good judge is the person educated in every area.” (I.4 p.4) Therefore since you are within this particular government and had much training in this area, I would say you are a good judge for this circumstance.
Since you have come to me wondering what to do, I believe you are already aware of the answer. That you must act because if it were not a problem you would not be concerned and asking for advice. Therefore you are the best judge of this situation, not I, but you. You must deliberate about your beliefs that will hopefully promote a good end. (III.3 p. 35) And then determine what steps to take to enact this justice. Since you have acquired character you are no longer free to think wrongly; your brain is programed to think to the means of a good end. (III.5 p.38) You must establish which action to take “For we are in control of actions from the beginning to the end” (III.5 p. 40). Once you have discovered what you wish for, in the end you must “deliberate and decide about things that promote it” (III.5 p. 37).
By saying nothing, you are not holding these people accountable for their actions, even though they have bad intent. They are using it for their power, own personal gain, and pleasure because “many think it is something obvious and evident for instance, pleasure, wealth or honor” (I.4 p.3) that will bring about happiness. We do bad things because of pleasure, instead of the right thing, because sometimes it is painful to do the ethical/moral thing. Pleasure and “wealth is not the good we are seeking” (I.6 p.5). The good we should be seeking is the good of the soul not the external goods. (I.7 p.10) “[W] hat is just pleases the lover of justice” (I.8 p.11). This is the type of people we need in government agencies such as, lovers of justice not lovers of honor or wealth; people like you who must stand up for justice and be an example for the rest of the nation.
In this case I believe there will be more pain involved for the nation as a whole if nothing is said or done. To act virtuous in this situation you must involve yourself in a choice. Whether or not you wish to live in a lie or serve justice to the people of this country and hold these political figures accountable for their actions, we must seek to stand by our ethics as a result hopefully inspiring others of this country to do the same. For people to reach their fullest good and happiness they must seek out the chivalrous, good end verses just an end that leads to pleasure of earthly things. “Hence virtue is also up to us.” (III.3 p. 37) You can find true happiness through knowledge but not the corrupt knowledge, in which the government are stealing from people’s phone conversations and emails, web traffic, and other things along those lines.
In conclusion, you should hold this government agency accountable for their actions and apply the necessary punishment so the public eye can see that actions such as these are not suitable or acceptable. Help the people form a moral habit by exposing them. Follow the path of your ethical character and serve the justice of the people, not of the pleasure hungry individuals at the head of this government. Seek the good end that consists of the good of the soul and not external material goods that the people of the government are seeking. Furthermore, you are the best for this situation for you are more of an expert in this area. You are in control of your actions; please stand up and make a difference for this nation by holding these wrongdoers accountable for theirs. Be a lover of justice!