Teaching Ethics issues this special call for responses to a new case study by Steven M. Cahn published in its Volume 15, Number 2, Fall 2015 issue. Please submit responses by April 5th to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject [Case Study]. The best submission by a graduate student, in addition to being published in Teaching Ethics, will also be awarded a $200 cash prize.
THE BUS PUZZLE
Steven M. Cahn
Here’s a real-life moral problem based on my own experience in New York City.
Two men boarded a bus, sat down, and saw under their seats a package of gloves that appeared to have been newly purchased. After some discussion, one man indicated that he intended to keep the gloves for himself. An older fellow across the aisle, listening to the conversation, told the two that they should give the gloves to the bus driver, who would take them to the lost-and-found. This older man further explained that whoever had paid for the gloves would want them returned. Indeed, he claimed, taking the gloves under those circumstances would be stealing. In response, the two men insisted that they still intended to keep the gloves.
Moments later, the older man rose to leave the bus. As he passed the two others, he grabbed the package, gave the gloves to the driver, and hurried off.
What the bus driver did with the package I do not know. Perhaps he gave the gloves to the lost-and-found, or contributed them to a relief organization, or returned them to the first two men. He might even have kept them for himself.
Whatever the outcome, given these circumstances, how should we morally assess the behavior of the two men who found the package, as well as the words and actions of the older man and the possible plans of the bus driver?
Teaching Ethics is dedicated to ethical issues across the curriculum with particular attention to pedagogical methodology and practice in both academic inquiry and professional practice. The journal’s editorial focus is on ethics as a dimension of all academic inquiry rather than as an isolated philosophical discipline. Its primary mission is to provide a peer-reviewed forum for academic dialogue in ethics instruction across disciplines such as business, medicine, trades, technology, law, and other areas of liberal education. Submissions on these and related issues are always welcome: email@example.com.