Describe in detail the difference between moral virtue and moral devices. As you think about criminal justice professionals, list the five characteristics that you would argue are most typical of the character of the types of professionals. Are these characters virtues or devices? Finally, lift five characteristics that you feel would be ideal or desirable for such professionals to embody.

Differences between moral virtues and moral devices are located in distinctions between personality traits, qualities, and characteristics (virtues) and skills. Put simply, a moral device is a means to an end, or a way of resolving a crisis or point of tension in one’s own life. Five virtues that would help a criminal justice professional are honesty, bravery, dedication, humility, and compassion for others. Without these moral virtues, a person would be unlikely to succeed in criminal justice.

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When it comes to morality, there have been many virtues thought to be advantageous in a servant of the law. Due to the high value placed on right conduct in matters of criminal justice, men and women working for institutions and agencies that defend the law are asked to demonstrate their inner goodness or morality. Although one might presume that the five moral qualities of an individual working in criminal justice would be the same for all people in all contexts, there are many admirable aspects specific to these hardworking service professionals. In this brief essay, I propose to explore briefly the five virtues that I believe are the most essential in a police officer, judge, or court official: honesty, bravery, dedication, humility, and compassion for others.

Moral virtues are different from moral devices. A device is a tool, something one can use. For instance, telling a joke to help make a sad person feel better would constitute a moral device because telling a joke requires skill. One makes use of the virtue of good humor to bring about a positive effect in the outside world. In this way, a moral device is something that emerges from moral virtue: the goodness within an individual. Philosophy enables people to capitalize on their own moral virtue by learning new skills and then using them through interactions with others. This, moral conduct has a prominent social component. Nowhere is this more evident than in matters of the law and its breaking. For this reason, it is essential for all members of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to understand what moral virtues are expected in upholders of the pillars upon which our American society was founded.

First, honesty is of paramount importance in a justice of the peace and those who work with them. There are many different kinds of people working in law enforcement and criminal justice today. However, one quality that should unite them all is the desire to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. People value honesty because it is easier to live free of worry. To be transparent in matters of criminal justice is to be devoid of secrets. The reason that many squad cars cone equipped with cameras is for this precise reason of transparency. The expectation of honesty is meant to help people do their jobs without accusations of bias.

The second quality that is vital for criminal justice professionals to have is bravery. When working a dangerous job, it is often necessary to stand in harm’s way in order to perform one’s duty. To be brave is to put another’s well-being before one’s own. There is usually thought to be nothing more courageous than taking a bullet. However, this aspect of self-sacrifice transcends all aspects of life and is therefore a useful metaphor to describe everyday bravery too. When you go back to save a pet in a burning building, you are being brave because you know someone has to do it.

Humility is the quality that enables service itself. To be humble is to do tasks that you or others might see as beneath you, but that you do any way. Morality means behaving justly at every turn. Sometimes life requires that one does things one doesn’t want to do; one might not want to do the activity for reasons related to pride, vanity, and self-regard. Humility registers in the act of getting a cup of coffee for one’s coworker without being asked. Humility insists that the little things matter, and prioritizes the details of one’s daily routine.

There are few workers more dedicated that the men and women who swear to protect and serve us as citizens. Perseverance, loyalty, and honor all play a role in dedication. These inner qualities motivate individual agents to aspire to greatness if not glory. More importantly, these qualities of nobility are present in all people who cultivate them as moral touchstones. Never quitting when facing an uphill battle is the kind of moral device that people use to express the virtue of dedication.

Finally, a fifth moral virtue that is essential in the modern world of criminal justice is empathy, or compassion for others. Selflessness leads to kindness, generosity, and charity. In this way, putting others before one’s self is the ideal way to produce happiness in the world. More to the point, compassion breeds fellow-feeling in the form of gratitude from one individual to another. If criminal justice is a profession based in service to the community, then surely we must want the most empathetic people involved. By helping others, we help the world at large, thereby benefiting ourselves in material and philosophical ways.

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