Disclaimer >> this is for a university essay, so obviously I'm not asking for anyone to write my essay for me :)

There is a requirement in our degree we prove we are capable of grasping some ethical concepts but as I'm not actually a philosophy student I don't have the knowledge of how to optimise searching for reading material and insight. Plus it's hard to google for something when the terminology/jargon isn't there already!

(should note, we are being taught it all, but I'm the type to get started on these things early)

Anyways, I will be specifically writing a short essay on the implications of a 'humanitarian' worker (NGO, Engineers Without Borders, disaster relief, govt sponsored assistance etc.) paying into corruption - e.g. paying a bribe to facilitate what they may consider a 'greater' good. So far:

  • I've learned very basic concepts about deontological ideals >> don't do it (?)
  • I've learned about utilitarian ideals >> maybe do it ... it depends
  • Also there was mention of 'act' vs. 'rule' utilitarians

Questions at least from my perspective have popped up re. basing our predictions of the future (that inform our actions now) being based on our knowledge of the past, all the while that knowing that the future is not the past.

But I ask >> what other ideas/ideals may be worthy of addressing?

Something obvious I'm missing?

Also any advice on (not too heavy and hopefully short) reading material?

Any advice greatly appreciated

  • 1
    It would depend on the nature of your program, but many companies have ethics policies that address this sort of thing, might be worth checking out what they say. Mar 15, 2015 at 1:24
  • 1
    I have, it's easy to come to a consensus as to the message, 'be good', 'dont be bad', 'think about the consequences'. It's just lip service ... ethics101 (if I could claim to be at that level) rips holes in the consistency of it. Mar 15, 2015 at 2:34
  • You can adopt a Legalistic meta-ethics such that anything not obligatory on you became so by reason of 'culpa levis in concreto'. In other words if you have to write an essay to get a job, you say in your essay you will never never break the law unless the law requires you to break it.This is a perfectly valid position.
    – Vivek Iyer
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


If the 'humanitarian' worker is domiciled in a country which has signed up to International Anti Corruption Conventions then there is a legal duty not to engage in corrupt acts and a risk of punishment. An agent- i.e. a person who works for an organization- does not get to pick and chose which rules to follow. A principal, however, may have more freedom- for example by relocating to a jurisdiction where Corruption is not punishable. In Development Economics, a distinction is made between corrupt acts which have 'transformation potential' for the country and those which impoverish it. However, there is no legal defense for indulging in either if your country of domicile or operation has signed up to relevant anti corruption conventions.

  • 1
    legal duties are not identical to ethical duties.
    – virmaior
    Sep 27, 2015 at 4:44
  • Statements of the order X are not identical with Y are not arguments. In context they are evidence of imbecility. You appear to be a troll.
    – Vivek Iyer
    Sep 27, 2015 at 11:01
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    This is a stack exchange which means it's based on answering people's questions. Sometimes those questions are not well-written. In this case, I take the core of OPs question to be about ethics not law for at least two reasons. First, this is a philosophy.SE. Second, the question is about ethics not law... For reference, I'm not a troll. I'm a moderator for this SE.
    – virmaior
    Sep 27, 2015 at 12:07
  • You say legal duties are not identical to ethical duties. Yet, legal duties may be couched in ethical langauage and vice versa. Hence there is a possible supervenience relationship which for some granularity (eg non atomicity) can cash out as identity.
    – Vivek Iyer
    Sep 27, 2015 at 15:49

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