On Sunday morning during mothers’ day, Luke was arrested for stealing pampers from a nearby store. Luke was a smart, caring, and obedient 6-year-old living with her mother and his 8-month-old sister in a remote village in the outskirts of Kampala. On that fateful Sunday morning, one would assume that Luke had seen his mother suffer enough using rugs and other old towels as pampers for his baby sister. What a wonderful, befitting mothers’ day gift for a 6-year-old to give to his mother! Do you think it was right/wrong for Luke to steal or get arrested for stealing pampers? In trying to find the answer to the question above, we first need to know what shapes right or wrong in any given society. It would seem like Luke had good intentions as six-year-old thinking of diapers instead of what most kids would think of ‘cookies, lollipops, and other sweet snacks’. But again, as a society, we teach our children not to steal, therefore making Luke’s act punishable. Right, or wrong is shaped by ethically guided truth and each community has different ethics specific to that society.
According to moral philosophy a branch of philosophy that guides what is right or wrong, three branches examine the ‘why’, and the ‘how’ people should live in relation with others. The meta-ethics looks into what morality, justice and truth are, normative ethics provides a framework on which morality can be anchored, and applied ethics inscribe issues of moral significance. In a broader view, we can say that it is right or wrong depending on the impact one’s actions will have on society. At an individual level, one can invoke existential truth to overlook any form of action that contravenes the existing ethical guidelines.