Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences
Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences

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Introducing ethics in Information and Computer Sciences

4.3 Can theft be right?

When Sara is on her mission to find out, to get to the bottom of things, she gets hold of some financial records, and Herrenvolk accuses Sarah of theft. Strictly speaking, this is theft, but she discovers that these financial records are rather suspicious and, perhaps, provide evidence of some undercover action. So there is a question here: even if this is theft, is it ‘right’ in that case? Were suspicions enough to justify the stealing? Take a moment to think about this.

Activity 17

Jot down your views on the questions above.



Bearing in mind what I have said about Wittgenstein's language games and different uses of language, Sara might be justified. Consider this: if I took a gun from someone in order to stop them from shooting someone, I would call this ‘confiscation’ instead of ‘theft’. This is because ‘confiscation’ is an appropriate description of the situation and works neatly with an acceptable justification for my action. Sara wouldn't have called what she did ‘theft’, as Herrenvolk did, so we've got a difference of vocabulary.

Later in the play, Sara threatens to use her knowledge and position as a press officer to ‘spill the beans’ about Patrick. She uses that blackmail to force Patrick to tell her what is going on. So there, I think, she must have been conscious that she was exploiting her power in rather dubious ways in order to persuade Patrick to give her information. He actually responds to the threat, recognising that, if she wants something so much that she is willing to compromise her professional standards, then she really means business, so he capitulates.

Interestingly, there is perhaps a measure of naivety to Sara's actions, at least in the beginning. Indeed, before she talked to the editor of the magazine, Sara was not going to do anything about the situation; she is just intent on dealing with the Mozambique contract. The conversation with the magazine editor changes her view, as he tells her a few things that, albeit surprisingly given her position, she is not aware of.


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