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The Moral Value Of Individuals: Analysis Of Frederick Douglass

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I personality think that human beings have a moral duty to treat themselves and other as end rather than means. Treating someone as end mean a lot to me because treating them as a value within their self. Treating some as an end makes them feel a human being which has value to life.

Deontology is one of the main ethical systems known and used today. The former suggests that the moral value of actions is determined by their consequences. In other words, an act that as a result maximizes benefits for the majority can be deemed ethical even though it harms certain individuals. At the same time, deontology proposes that an action is right only when it is performed consistently with ethical principles and codes regardless of whether its consequences are favorable or unfavorable. It is valid to say that Frederick Douglass’s perspective on the moral value of individuals and their duties is in line with the deontological rules of ethics. Frederick Douglass was convinced that every person inherently has dignity and can express it by behaving virtuously. It means that one has a moral responsibility to treat others not just a means for attaining certain goals, either economic or religious, but as ends in themselves. I tend to agree with Douglass’s ideas and, in the present paper, I will aim to demonstrate why they must be considered valid.

The present-day world provides a lot of examples of when individuals are treated as means and when duties are performed only as value . The number of such examples is especially large in the business and economic spheres. For instance, a corporation may strive to generate greater profits by reducing labor costs and increasing daily work hours. In this situation, the management does not view workers as individuals and human beings but merely as tools by utilizing which it is possible to gain more revenues. Clearly, such a treatment of workers is not ethical at all.

The profits that are generated through the use of employees as instruments maximize goods (wealth and happiness) only for a small group of people: managers, leaders, and other parties in the position of power. Besides, the well-being of workers is not considered in this situation. They may not only be deprived of a chance to access the economic benefits produced through their labor but also suffer serious inconveniences during the work process. Such a treatment of individuals cannot be considered ethical and just even from other perspective since it does not maximize goods for the majority. However, it was regarded as a norm for a significant period in the United States since law and accepted social norms sanctioned slavery. During the times when slavery was legal, the value of every person was more than ever determined not only by their social-economic status but by their racial background as well. African Americans and some other ethnic minority groups were deprived of basic human rights, including education. To respect the rights of those individuals and provide them with freedom was, in fact, against the law.

In the past, the idea that people of different races and ethnicities could have similar qualities and potentials was inconceivable for some. Nowadays, we know that every person can attain self-realization and benefit other people and society providing he or she is given a chance to thrive, develop skills, learn, and pursue various personal goals. It is possible to say that the respect towards those quality potentials and rights of individuals was what Douglass considered a virtuous behavior and one’s responsibility. To mistreat others and use them to attain personal or any other goals while being aware that everyone has the same natural powers and needs for self-realization, thus, means to act immorally.

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I can find many examples in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass of how he treated others and himself as ends in themselves. A good one is when Douglass was hired as a teacher in a Sabbath school to teach other slaves English and instruct them on religious texts. Participation in a class like this was of significant importance for enslaved African Americans because they did not have any other chances for education and self-development. As Douglass noted in his book, he became a teacher to those individuals not because “it was popular to do so” or “reputable to be thus engaged” (82). He did it only because his students truly “wished to learn” and “their minds had been starved by their cruel masters” (Douglass 83). By teaching slaves, Douglass helped them to enhance their intellectual and moral capacities needed to realize their intrinsic powers. Overall, he provided them with the resources necessary to choose between moral and immoral decisions and behaviors independently.

Douglass live up to his his moral duty despite the consequences as potentially could be harmful and death. He lived up what he believed and fight for he stand for even tho it was risky ,could have resulted in death of himself and other slave. He think that was his call of duty. Fredrick grew up on the plantation seeing how the slaves were treated and believe slavery was wrong. He fight hard so end slavery because he want the slaves to treated as human and have right to their freedom. He even shows his religious duty where he justify slavery using the bible. Douglass remind me of solider who goes to war and what ever it takes he /she going to fight for their country because that their call of duty even to it comes with a lot risky consequences .

By helping others in the improvement of knowledge and skills, Douglass himself acted in accordance with his view of moral duty. It is possible to say that as one of a few literate African Americans he was aware of the social and political contexts in the country relatively better than illiterate slaves. For him, knowledge and literacy became the ways to freedom and essential means for the promotion of racial equality. Thus, he used teaching as a tool for empowerment and he utilized it for the “bettering in the condition of [his] race” (Douglass 83). It seems like the act teaching, in this case, served to maximize such nonmoral goods as knowledge and, eventually, happiness through liberation. Nevertheless, it is wrong to believe that Douglass treated his students merely as meas aimed to combat injustice in general. His efforts were primarily targeted at the maximization of their well-being. Douglass mentioned that he was happy to know that some of his students became literate and one became free as a result of his help . This note indicates that he mainly acted out of respect for individuals’ rights.

In conclusion, it is appropriate to note that a clear answer to the matters of moral values were very essential to human beings. Douglass was right to be willing to make sacrifices for moral duty because he was able to set the slaves free. By doing so was a lot of consequences he faced he got have been killed jail and also put the life off other slaves at risk, because what he doing was not legal doing that time of slavery. There are situations in which it would be justifiable to use certain individuals, put them at risk, and sacrifice their well-being to minimize harm to the majority or maximize benefits for the community. However, the cases of abuse during slavery do not belong to this category. There is no justification for mistreating people who have the same rights and needs as everyone else. It is immoral to deprive them of an opportunity to thrive with the only purpose of producing more benefits for another group of people with greater social and political power.

On the contrary, respect for the dignity of others, acknowledgment of the fact that they are essential valuable by their very nature is a form of virtuous behavior. Noteworthily, the example of Frederick Douglass demonstrates that the one who has certain privileges, such as the position of knowledge ability and higher education status, has an even greater responsibility to treat people with respect. By helping other individuals to improve their capacities and upholding their moral values, it is also possible to contribute to the development of common good. The virtuous behavior aimed to express own dignity and honor the dignity of fellow-citizens and allows creating a context and changing life conditions in a way that provides chances for more persons to realize their potentials and thrive.

Work cited

  1. Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, Critical Edition. (Yale University Press, 2016).

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