Ethics: The welfare of others

BACKGROUND

Most children have been taught the "Golden Rule" at school or Sunday School: "Do to others as you would have them do to you". Adults are often shocked at how frankly children will confess their unwillingness to obey the rule when obedience carries a cost.

DIALOGUE

(Charlotte 6)

Do you have any pets?

Charlotte: Yes. I have a cat and a guinea pig. And a goldfish. The cat is called Zephyr and the guinea pig is called Gip.

Do you like them?

Charlotte: Of course. Everyone likes their pets.

How would you feel if something awful happened to one of your pets?

Charlotte: Really sad. I had a rabbit once, but a dog got in and ate it. I cried.

Have you heard of Africa?

Charlotte: It's a long way away. They have jungles there, and wild animals.

There are people there as well. Millions of them.

Charlotte: I know.

Would you care if someone in Africa was hit by a bus?

Charlotte: Not much. It probably happens all the time.

Would you rather someone you didn't know in Africa was hit by a bus, or your goldfish died?

Charlotte: I'd rather someone was hit by a bus.

How about 10 people killed in a bus crash?

Charlotte: I still don't want my fish to die.

What if the choice is between your goldfish and a thousand people killed in an earthquake? What if you were magic, and you had to choose?

Charlotte: Maybe the people are more important.

What if it's between the people and Zephyr?

Charlotte: No way! I love Zephyr.

What if it's either ten people in Australia killed in a bushfire, or Zephyr hit by a car?

Charlotte: People I don't know?

Yes. You don't know any of them.

Charlotte: Then I'd pick Zephyr not to be hit by the car.

What if it's between Zephyr and grandma?

Charlotte: Um. Grandma's very old. She might die anyway.

What if it's either grandma dies 6 months before she would have, or Zephyr is hit by a car?

Charlotte: Are you going to tell grandma what I said?

I don't know. Probably not.

Charlotte: I think grandma is more important.

Bibliography

Return to index

WITS home page