I. Kantian Deontology: Moral Obligation
Deontology directly translates to the study of “obligation or duty,” and the morality of those obligations or duties. These actions are judged with a normative ethical perspective. It is often described as a moral obligation or rule because of its tie to your civic duty to live life morally and just. It is used in several different scenarios depending on its context, but it abides by a set of regulations connected to the universe, religious law, or a set of cultural values – all of which may collide with one’s own personal desires.
Kantian Ethics, or Kantian Deontology as some may call it, originated in the eighteenth century by a philosopher named Immanuel Kant. Kant’s work curated much attention because of his unique perspective upon making moral decisions, till this day it is still considered to be one of the greatest theories upon morality in Western philosophy. Kantian Deontology takes upon the approach of understanding moral issues. It serves as a guideline to processing, evaluating, and deciding upon moral issues. In society, we often encounter these morally difficult situations and it is necessary to find a solution by correlating what is morally significant and decide upon a moral judgement.
His perception upon ethics clarifies many uncertainties that can be associated with ethics. It serves as useful resources in breaking down moral problems and arriving to a consensus. It is both complex and valuable in making decisions with morally difficult situations. Individuals face these issues more than we seem to imagine and it serves as a great reference for solving these types of issues in the business world.
Moral theories can be segregated by the type of object is taken into evaluation. A moral theory that places individuals to be the primary objects of moral evaluation. When individuals become the focal point of moral theory, the issue then becomes what it takes to be a good person and live a good life. When a moral theory puts forth effort to make primary objects of moral evaluations, the issue then becomes whether or not an action is deemed as morally good. An example of this would be someone donating food or clothes to the underprivileged. Connecting to the classifications of the kinds of moral perspectives, someone who takes the approach of person oriented moral theory will be based upon virtue and Aristotelian Ethics.
Another classification can be used to determine if a decision or action made is morally good, permissible, or obligated. An action based theory of moral evaluation is called the consequentialist theory which implies that acting morally is food and will reap a benefit rather than a consequence. An easy indication would be a person’s prior intentions to performing that action. Kant based his theory of ethics through actions as opposed to a person oriented moral theory which is called non-consequentialist theory.
There are positive and negative associations with actions that are intended and what actually comes of it. Many individuals who experience something traumatic in which they did not intend for misfortune to happen often result in poor consequences. An example of this, would be someone who takes the night out with friends drinking and is designated to the be the driver of the group. A designated driver on a night of drinking implies that the driver will be sober enough to safely transport whoever they took in their car home safely. As the night progresses, the designated driver proceeds to share a few drinks before heading home. Once the driver notices an argument fueling between the people he took in his car, he realizes that is time to take everyone home before it gets out of hand. As he is about to take the last exit before dropping them off at home, someone drives passed them causing the car to swerve and flip out of control. As a result, the backseat passenger ejected out of the car and died on impact due to not wearing a seatbelt. The intention of the designated driver was not to hurt anyone in the car, but the consequences of getting behind the wheel while even buzzed ended in a negative consequence. But also, there are those who have cruel intentions with the intended result of negative consequences. In another example, someone may have cruel intentions of killing someone by poisoning their food by adding it into the mixture, but the concoction was actually an antidote and ended up saving their lives rather than the intention of a negative consequence.
Kant created a set of moral laws that is universal and will carry through years of time, similarly modeling after laws found in mathematics and physics. He created these set of laws to help distinguish what are and are not moral actions. The first is that morality is necessary and universal. Second, if an action is moral then it must be universally accepted and pertinent to all humans. Third and fourth, personal specific wants or desires are not necessary or universal so these cannot be actions. Fifth, actions that are not based upon specific wants or desires are deemed moral actions. An example of these laws would be when a professor set a specific deadline for an assignment worth about twenty percent of your grade, but students still asked to submit the assignment late past the deadline. The professor can make a decision to either accept this late submission because of a desire to be a good person to help a student receive a better overall grade in the class or abide by the rules that they set for the rest of the class and not accept the submission so they are not unfair to everyone who submitted their assignments on time. A desire that makes your feel good must be based upon something that is not necessary and potentially not universally accepted. In accordance to Kant, an action based on desire is dependent on two different reasons: people desire different things and an individual may not share the same desires over time.
The main principle to take away is called Categorical Imperative which governs actions and intentions. It entails others to treat others on how you would want others to treat all other people. It acts in accordance to the maxim in which all other people must be rational to follow this universal law. A maxim was term heavily used in Kant’s philosophy which implies that intentions of performing an action all the way through. The typical form of this action follows the pattern of, “I will perform action A in circumstance B in order to achieve the end result C.” This basic formula explains that we cannot act solely on maxims and expect them to become universal laws for all humans to follow. If a maxim becomes universal it can proceed with a contradiction which cannot be applied to everyone to follow. Kant’s Categorical Imperative does no provide an exact formula to determine whether an action is right or wrong, but it works to better guide humans to critically analyze, think, and make their own judgements based upon the moral statures in certain situations. It should be used to help better understand morally difficult situations in which we must pay closer attention to reasoning behind the intentions of morality.
One of the worst disasters in NASAs history, the Challenger explosion, shocked many lives. Upon closer speculation, people began to question the actions taken prior to the explosion and what could have been done to prevent it. It occurred in January 1986 killing seven astronauts, and resulted from the failure of O-rings to seal in the booster rocket joints in the space shuttle and uncommonly low temperatures in Florida the day of the explosion.
Morton Thiokol, Inc., created these shuttle booster rockets and some of their employees were deemed to be vital members of the company and NASA. Within their testimony, prior to the presidential intervention into further investigating into the accident, those employees were put framed to blame for the accident and were penalized as a result. Some of these members of the company were: Roger Boisjol, who was an engineer, worked on the shuttle for several months had previously warned superiors that there might be an instability with the O-rings and his concerns were then ignored. Roger then did more research upon his apprehensions about the shuttle, and looked into how temperature could affect important connectors that sealed the shuttle booster rockets. When he voiced his concerns yet again, his superiors still disregarded his speculations that the shuttle may be faulty. In his final warning, which was the night before he explosion, he noticed that the low temperature was a still concern but the NASA officials and Thiokol senior managers overrode the engineers and continued to still launch the flight.
After the terrible disaster, Roger was ordered to be upon the investigating team but after testifying in front of the Rogers Commission about the discrepancy for the launch of the shuttle. He was secluded from NASA and his position at Thiokol was changed. Upon further investigation, the chairman of the commission disapproved of the company for punishing the two engineers who worked on the shuttle, but received the blame. As a result, they were both offered their jobs back, but Rogers left the company on extended sick leave.
According to Kantian ethics, Categorical Imperative would have pushed the superiors to listen to Roger Boisjoly, who had good intentions in trying to prevent a disaster. He not only voiced his concerns once, but three times before the final launch of the shuttle which ended in the deaths of seven innocent astronauts. His warnings were based upon extensive research and premise, but they chose not to listen to him. Though he went into voicing his concerns with good intentions, he ended up with a negative consequence. He followed Kant’s idea of moral duty to do right because it is the right thing to do. He could have gone public about the concerns in efforts to further prevent the unfortunate happenings of this accident.
In 2002, Enron was ranked the fifth largest company in the United States according to Fortune magazine. In the same time that this magazine was published, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections. They fell from the top from being the regional gas pipeline trader to the largest energy trader in the world. With the help of further investigation, researchers discovered that the company had the assistance of investment bankers, accountant and other business personnel. They were able to create illegal partnerships that were not kept in the record books. These hidden record books helped cover up the large amount of debt and aided in increasing its stock price in the market.
Enron executives managed these books and benefitted from this. As a result of their downfall, Enron employees lost their 401k plans and the savings of many employees were drained because of the closure of the plans when they changed administrators when the stock price dramatically dropped which meant employees could not make any more changes resulting in the large loss. In accordance to Kantian ethics, Executives had the power to do right by their employees and could have avoided this traumatic downfall of the company. Instead they denied there was anything wrong for a long time. Not only did the executives have a large role in the downfall, but the other traditional gatekeepers did too.
The board, the audit team, the lawyers, investment bankers, and the agencies all foreseen this turn of events happening. The negligence and selfishness would combat everything that Kantian ethics believed in. The intentions of Enron was to benefit for themselves and not the good of the company and its employees.
IV. Housing Allowance
Wilson Mutambra came from a poor neighborhood in the sub-Saharan African country located in Rambia. He worked his way out of poor conditions through perseverance, talent, and luck. He eventually ended up at NewCom, a cellphone service. Within three years, he was chosen to expand the company with a chance to go back to his home town in Rambia. As an incentive for their employees, Rambia provided up to $2000 for rent, utilities, and servants each month. The purpose of this monthly allowance was for safer housing in the rough area that they had to work in. They wanted their employees to have more convenient means of living. To claim this monthly allowance, NewCom employees the needed to submit receipts every month, and Wilson submitted his itemized statements every month as expected.
Wilson stirred up controversy with his co-workers because he was so distant from the relationships at work that he frequently was gone traveling for business or he never invited over guests to his home. It was upon further speculation that the company found out that he had been living in a home that could not have been more than $300 a month. When he was confronted about the matter, he defended himself by mentioning that every other employee lived upon the same $2000 allowance, and questioned why he was being penalized. His supervisor then stated that the purpose of the allowance to maintain the image and reputation of the company by keeping their employees safe. Wilson’s housing was a poor representation of the company in accordance to his supervisor.
In response, Wilson was offended and immediately responded by saying that it was insulting to point out that his upbringing in his hometown neighborhood was unseemly or inappropriate. He submitted these falsified documents to support his big and poor family there. With reference to Kantian Ethics, Wilson was going into this work opportunity with the intention of supporting his family members and creating a better life for them but he resulted in a negative consequence because he lied about what he was doing. His circumstances could have been easily resolved if he would have been honest about what he was doing. But since he lied already, it makes it difficult for NewCom to trust him because they had to investigate to find out the truth. It was his moral duty as an employee to respect the company for their values and rules.
V. Blood for Sale
Sol Levin, a stockbroker from Tampa, Florida, ceased a feasible profitable market. He had
the idea of selling uncontaminated blood for a profit. He founded a blood collecting organization that purchased blood from people who were drug and alcohol abusers, but eventually realized that the blood from these sources were contaminated. From that discovery, the worked to find other sources of blood for their business and the success grew for them over time. He commercialized the blood market and wasted a large amount of blood due to making profit. It played a role in discouraging volunteers for donating blood because of the cruel intentions.
Kant’s concept of immorality directly translates from the moral law to performing an action simple because it’s the right thing to do in that moment of time. Kant is someone is firmly believes doing well by people and in this situation he would have reached out to the individuals who were actually willing to help and to donate instead of working to profit off of the underprivileged people in poorer countries. It is unjust to put a price tag on the value of blood.
In America, many people donate blood for a probable cause for those are in need of it for their health. I personally have volunteered to donate blood for many years in a row and fathoming the thought of someone pawning off my blood for a higher value makes me sick. Donating blood is especially crucial in times of natural disasters, and to limit people trying to attain the blood buy adding a price value to it would be wrong in Kant’s perspective.
VI. Parable of Sadhu
Morgan Stanley named Bowen McCoy went on a hike expedition in the Himalayas where he and his party came across a pilgrim, Sadhu, who was dying from the cold weather. They found Sadhu naked and were near the end of their journey by crossing an obstacle in order to obtain their lifetime opportunity in the Himalayas. McCoy did help Sadhu by clothing him and reached out to others comprised of a Japanese group, a Swiss couple, Sherpa’s and New Zealanders group of people to help. With their collaborative efforts they were able to help him warm up, get clothed and fed him.
McCoy faced the challenge of helping Sadhu because his whole group he travelled with would be affected if they did not help a helpless man they came across on their journey. He then questioned how much help was enough to fulfill the good deed. He was able to fulfill his moral obligation or duty and weighed out the positive and negative consequences of his action and they both ended up being positive because of his ability to care.
Kant’s view of moral obligation helps humans change their perspective before making
decisions that can be irrational. He firmly believed in doing good by people and it will promote a better life in the long wrong. The cases I analyzed broke down different stories to help better explain scenarios related to Kantian Deontology. We are humans who expect basic means of respect and that can entail performing and action that is morally good dependent on the intentions prior to making those actions. One should ask what the intentions were, who was involved, what moral rights were violated, those acting on maxims could be universally used, and were all parties involved fully aware of what the guidelines were. His perceptions allow us to be more perceptive and understanding of humans in the world for their actions and reasoning.