The Ethics of Punctuality

Travelling for the holidays has made me stop and think meaningfully about punctuality and virtue.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to be punctual.  From a virtue perspective, I would say I worked on finding the mean of punctuality but sometimes overshoot.  Flying to visit my parents for the holidays, however, put me in a position where I was late, and that was uncomfortable for me.  Suddenly, I placed the focus on myself more than I care to admit.  Stuck in the back of the plane, I secretly wanted people to stay in their seats to let people with tight connections to go through first.  Since I missed my connection, I had plenty of time to think and I’ve come to the conclusion that when I’m punctual, I don’t have to obsess over the time and am more aware of what is going on around me.  The virtues are not only goals in and of themselves, but they really can contribute to the good life overall.  I am curious where you think punctuality fits into the classical virtues.  I would argue it is rooted in prudence, but one could make a case for it to be a part of justice.  Regardless, I hope that airlines as institutions can work towards this virtue on an ongoing basis.

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2 responses to “The Ethics of Punctuality

  • Brian

    Braden, I agree with you, I think punctuality is definitely a virtue, and most likely a form of justice and/or prudence, though I suppose courage could also be a component of it if one is going where one does not want to go!
    And I don’t think it is wrong to wish that people with tight connections could be allowed to go first, that is your logical side expressing, not so much your selfish side, assuming you would do the same for others on other flights. (By the way, I think I remember airlines formerly allowing passengers with tight connections to exit first, like back the 80s. But not any more.)
    As for airlines being virtuous, I’m not going to expect much!

  • Paul Glassen

    For a long time I car pooled with a co-worker. The majority of days, morning and afternoon, he would keep me waiting for him. Finally a clerical staff person saw me waiting and said she would never put up with it. I soon stopped commuting with that co-worker.

    I figured out that you are unlikely to arrive at exactly the same time, one is always their first. So if both are playing fairly with the other, half the time you should be there first and half the time the other person. If you are more often the late arriver, you need to come earlier.

    My wife and I have this disagreement over when is “on time” for a group activity, say a class. She says as long as she is there before the speaker starts, she is on time. I point out that if everyone came at the last minute, all would be held up and the speaker would not be able to start. She breezes in at the last minute just because all those other people came comfortably, respectfully earlier. She is taking advantage of the earlier arrivers. (This as an application of the ‘categorical imperative’.)

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