Knowledge is indeed a great privilege to posses, if you know something; it is easier to perform some functions. Possession of knowledge requires ethical responsibility as some knowledge may prove dangerous to the society and is rather kept secret for the good of all. The possession of knowledge carries the responsibility of sharing that knowledge depending on the situation. Knowledge is omnipresent and people can obtain it in many different ways (John 23). As such, every human being in the world has knowledge on something. However, this knowledge could be completely not important to one person, but could also be the difference between life and death of another person. “The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility”, is an interesting claim that requires an evaluation on both sides. Generally, I believe that knowledge does carry some ethical responsibility, because once an individual is in possession of a piece of knowledge, then it is their responsibility to do whatever they want to do with that information. It all depends on the type of knowledge they have, the prevailing situation they are in, who they are withholding or imparting to, and how that knowledge will affect other people. However, in order to evaluate this claim without taking sides, this paper will attempt to look at some knowledge issues.
The issues of knowledge that I have identified for this paper include; how can you possess knowledge? How do your ethics affect the knowledge you have? And how can one know when they are ethically responsible? Pondering over these knowledge issues can allow us to evaluate this claim satisfactorily. Possession of knowledge takes place when someone has obtained that knowledge. Even if that knowledge is irrelevant or not important to you, you are still in possession of it and therefore hold responsibility for it. For the second issue, I hold the belief that ethics affect the knowledge held by an individual. For example, if two people have the same knowledge, each person may choose to use that knowledge differently to the other, because ethics will determine what they want to do with that knowledge. Awareness of ethical responsibility of an individual entirely depends on the prevailing situation. The individual is only responsible for the knowledge but unless the possession of that knowledge has profound impact on someone or something, he or she may not be ethically responsible for that knowledge. In order to gain further understanding on these knowledge issues and by extension of that claim, it is appropriate to look at ethics as an area of knowledge. In order to evaluate this statement, I would present few examples where knowing something might put someone in an ethical dilemma.
Ethics as an area of knowledge can be used to relate to the claim by taking an example of the unparalleled knowledge of nuclear physics possessed by Albert Einstein. He was in possession of knowledge on how to create a bomb, which he could have kept to himself, preventing strategies such as Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Others also maintain that the Cold War could have been avoided if he kept the information to himself. His ethics could have informed him to that by sharing his knowledge to the world would lead to creation and use of weapons of mass destruction. However, if you look at it from Einstein’s point of view, it is proper to argue that as a scientist, he is ethically bound to share his scientific inventions to the scientific community. Careful analysis of this example shows that ethics as an area of knowledge has a wide spectrum that can be used to justify both sides of an argument. As stated earlier, people use knowledge depending on their ethics and are able to justify their actions based on their ethical responsibilities. This example highlights the fact that however much people use ethics as an area of knowledge in different ways; it still affects the use of knowledge in their possession.
The next example of ethics that also helps evaluate the fact that possession carries ethical responsibility is the Seoul Olympics in 1988. The winner of 1988 Seoul Olympics 100m gold medal, Ben Johnson clinched the title before testing positive for performance enhancing drugs administered to him by his doctor, George Astaphan who was fully aware of the risks involved in using the drugs (O'Brien 76). An ethical issue arising from this example is that Johnson was never aware of the health risks of the drugs he used. Two ethical problems arise here; whether Astaphan was ethically responsible not to prescribe the drugs to Johnsons because it goes against FIFA rules or he had the responsibility of treating his client as a doctor. Considering the issue from both perspectives, George Astaphan still carries the ethical responsibility for the knowledge he posses and his intention of using it.
At some point, the world faced a financial crisis because banks mismanaged funds deposited by customers thereby failing to recuperate it afterwards (Marcelino 34). Many banks went bankrupt with some closing their branches. In relation to the above-mentioned claim, banks are ethically responsible for safeguarding customers’ savings and this is exactly the expectation of customers. One could argue that the banks could have informed customers immediately when they started losing money rather than wait until it was too late to compensate customers. As such, the banks behaved in a selfish manner by withholding knowledge they possessed from the public. On the other hand, the banks could have withheld the information because it could have generated global recession as people could have resorted to keeping money by themselves. This could have had broad implications such as rise in crime levels as people would be aware that many keep their savings with them. In the view of this argument, it is ethically correct for the banks to hold such knowledge that they had of the situation. This example also asserts the fact that someone is always ethical responsible for the knowledge in his or her possession.
In conclusion, after using these real life situations to evaluate the claim that ‘possession of knowledge carries ethical responsibility’, it would be probable to agree that possession of knowledge carry ethical responsibility. I have come to this conclusion after realizing that whichever the way you view each situation, you are able to justify the actions by considering the ethics involved and their correct application in each situation. Even though some of the justifications do not please most people, their ethics could justify the decisions they made. It is for this reason that I agree that the claim is correct and that possession of knowledge does carry an ethical responsibility.
John R. Shook. Dewey's Empirical Theory of Knowledge and Reality. Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 2000. Print.
Marcelino, Lemos. An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.
O'Brien, Dan. An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Print.