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Humanities LibreTexts

11: Stealing

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  • You shall not steal.1

    The Bible reference above is absolutist in nature. It does not say that you should not steal so long as you have enough resources available to you, or that you should not steal if your neighbor has been good to you. Rather, it simply says that you should not steal full stop. Partly as a result of this particular commandment and the impact of Christianity upon social custom in many parts of the world, the message that stealing is a moral wrong is pervasive and fairly uncontroversial, at least prima facie. For example, if you hear that someone has been sent to prison for stealing, it would likely take something atypical for you to question whether or not the person deserved punishment for his or her crime. In this chapter, we apply the key normative theories of Kantian Ethics, Utilitarianism and Virtue Ethics to the issue of stealing.

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