Document Type and Release Option
Thesis (open access)
Dr. Daniel Larkin
In the iconic Seinfeld series finale, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer find themselves in a peculiar legal predicament when they mock a crime rather than intervene to help the victim. The show’s commitment to portraying reality, even in its finale, vividly demonstrates the potential consequences of a society lacking the legal obligation to aid others. This comical incident raises a thought-provoking question about the legitimacy of duty-to-act laws in the United States. This thesis examines the application of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics to the concept of duty-to-act laws and argues for the necessity and benefits of such laws in promoting a virtuous, just, and compassionate society. Drawing from Aristotle’s system of Virtue Ethics and his views on justice, this thesis aims to substantiate the viewpoint that the Seinfeld gang did indeed commit a crime against society by disregarding their obligation to help the common man. This argument is supported by the analysis of relevant cases in the United States, including People v. Moseley (1967), King v. Commonwealth (1941), and Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976). These cases shed light on concepts such as the bystander effect and doctor-patient confidentiality. Ultimately, this thesis argues that duty-to-act laws strike a balance between individual rights and societal responsibilities, aligning with Aristotle’s ethical teachings and fostering a more virtuous, just, and compassionate society.
McGrath, Luke J., "Is There Really Anything Wrong With That? An Aristotelian Analysis of Duty" (2023). Honors College Theses. 896.