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September 29, 2023

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Morality plays main role in Walter White’s decisions

After character Jesse Pinkman asked Walter White if he was going to “break bad” in season one episode one “Pilot,” it set the tone of viewers to think ethically and morally.

Throughout the “Breaking Bad” series, chemistry high school teacher and lung cancer patient Walter White knows he’s going to die, and decides he needs to start cooking and selling methamphetamine. He plans this in order to provide for his family so they are not in debt from his hospital bills after he dies.

White teams up with Pinkman and heads straight into the meth business and ultimately becomes the top drug lord, also known as Heisenberg. Getting to the top, however, included killing people, lying to his family and becoming the most wanted villain in the area.

Viewers of the show are left to think if it’s ethically right for White to get into the drug business to provide for his family or if it’s completely morally wrong in committing such actions.

Adam White, adjunct instructor in the department of philosophy and former instructor of ethics, is a fan of the television drama and said White is considered an ethical egoist, meaning he is only serving his own interest. His decisions are based upon the fact he has lung cancer, he said.

“His lung cancer is making him morally invisible into him thinking he is going to die really soon so it doesn’t matter what he does,” Adam said. “Walter is creating all of these bad outcomes and that is why we can identify him as being immoral.”

White’s character changes throughout the seasons following as he becomes more and more involved with the drug business, causing people to have mixed feelings toward the chemist.

Graduate Assistant in the department of Philosophy Ryan Fischbeck said the more you see White’s story and motivations as the series progresses, the more you either sympathize for him or think his activity is wrong. You might think White is held accountable simply because of his pride when thinking about his ethical actions, he said.

“It leads us to think that what he did was wrong, but that said, how different is it from the starving mother who steals a loaf of bread to feed her kids and having us think that is right,” Fischbeck said. “He is certainly less of a good person than he was at the beginning of the show. You are supposed to be very conflicted about how you feel about White.”

Senior and avid “Breaking Bad” fan Zack Dempsey has seen every episode and said it’s not ethically or morally right for White to be cooking and selling meth to provide for his family because he had his sister-in-law Marie and brother-in-law Hank to help support his family after he dies and he even turned down the paid treatment offered from his friends at Gray Matter.

“I get why he’s doing it and the reasons for doing it are good but he should have taken the money from his friends and family,” Dempsey said. “He let his pride get in the middle of having people pay for his things and if he would have taken the help, he would not started cooking meth and become the evil guy he is right now.”

Though the television drama leads many fans to think about the ethical decisions made from the characters, many will ultimately find out whether it was ethically right for White to “break bad” after the series finale on Sunday.

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