What does it mean to be a good person?
Two people—an off-duty firefighter and a senior citizen using a cane—are walking down the street. All of a sudden, they come across a house on fire. Someone sticks their head out of a second-floor window and yells, “Help me! Help me!”
While the two passersby are facing the same problem, says Paul Bloomfield, professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, they will most likely arrive at two different, equally moral decisions. In this situation, Bloomfield says, “It seems to me that the right thing for the firefighter to do is to run into the house and help, and the right thing for the elderly person to do is to call 911.”
Most of us don’t come across burning houses on a regular basis. However, we do face other kinds of moral decisions: should we sneak our nine-year-old grandson into the zoo for free as an under-eight? If our sister is having an affair, should we tell our brother-in-law? How you respond, says Bloomfield, is part of what determines if you are a “good person” or not.