Monday, February 7, 2011

Crime, Delinquency and the Ethics of Investigation

The philosopher Hegel distinguished very carefully between morality and ethics. Moralty (Moralitaet) was more abstract and transnational in nature. Ethics (Sittlichkeit) was about the mores of a particular cultural group.

Stieg Larsson employs both of these terms in describing the actions of his character Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. Joining forces at last - after over 350 pages - with the other lead character, Mikael Blomkvist, Salander has absolutely no compunction whatsoever about hacking into Blomkvist's computer.

Especially with a high-stakes inquiry into the actions of an apparent serial killer on the line.

Larsson puts it this way: "Salander was an information junkie with a delinquent child's take on morals and ethics."

Salander wanted the info, so she took it. Her action was akin to delinquency in its lack of respect for the other person. If she'd simply asked Blomkvist, he probably would have given her the information without all that much hesitation.

Instead, she risked sabotaging a key relationship by undermining essential trust.

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