Why does morality go out the window with scratch tickets?

I had a dream last night. It began with me swimming in a wave pool at a run-down, nasty, filth-infested water amusement park (probably something like Water Country; there are better places to feel and be young, rest assured) and I see a scratch ticket floating in the water.

I picked it up and it must have just fallen in the water because I could still scratch it. So, I did and to my surprise, it had won millions of dollars. I was ecstatic, I thought of all the bills that I could pay down, how I could finally pay off all my college debt and how easy life would be without financial restraint. However, I looked around and saw not too far from my location a group of little kids, maybe 7-10 years old with their parents. All of the little kids had a scratch ticket in their hand except for one kid. Immediately, I felt guilty. But, I rationalized with myself; the money would help me.

As I began to secure the ticket, I heard a voice (presumably of a friend, but I don’t recall looking at my friend, so I couldn’t identify who it was or it was my conscience) say, “Aren’t you going to give it back to him?”

And so — I have presented this question to a few people. And this seems like a pretty decent philosophical dilemma. Why does morality go out the window with scratch tickets?

If you rephrase the story with it being a purse I found, most people would try to return it. If you rephrase it the story with it being a purse that has a scratch ticket in it, most people would try to return the purse with the scratch ticket intact. However, when you can visibly see the owner and you know it’s not yours but it’s a scratch ticket most people rationalize reasons to quantify why they should keep it, when in reality it’s merely greed.

Is that the condition of human morality? And if so, what does that say about us as “rational agents”?

Needlessly, a fun dilemma.

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