With development of new technologies and constant scientific evolution, human perception of ethics cannot keep up with the speed of progress. In order to understand how an individual should consider his actions and decision from the ethically appropriate perspective, an example of business case study given for this assignment is the most suitable. In this context, position of the company and its possible decision is evaluated from the points of three ethical theories and their explanation of what is right and wrong, just and unjust, ethical and immoral. The chosen theories include Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue ethics. On the basis of those three approaches, the rational of final decision is explained.
Key words: ethics, morality, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Virtue, consequences.
Morality vs. Profit
While in the Ancient times, morality and ethics were identified according to preferences of a specific philosophic school and requirements of city-states; today, those issues are treated in a more complicated way, and each individual should deal with them in his own manner. In this context is meant that although there are generally accepted norms of moral behaviour, ethical behavioural pattern is quite difficult to identify unconditionally. With the development of new technologies and constant scientific evolution, human perception of ethics cannot keep up with the speed of progress. In order to understand how an individual should consider his actions and decision from the ethically appropriate perspective, an example of business case study given for this assignment is the most suitable. In this context, position of the company and its possible decision is evaluated from the points of three ethical theories and their explanation of what is right and wrong, just and unjust, ethical and immoral. The chosen theories include Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue ethics. On the basis of those three approaches, the rational of final decision is explained.
The essence of Utilitarian theory is based on a classic cause-result connection of events and decision-making. In this context, theory suggests that all human actions can be viewed from the perspective of utility. The “utility” function of the action is in its consequences. In other words, utilitarianism judges the essence and ethical characteristics of a specific action in the framework of its consequences. This theory is a classical representation of consequential theories of ethics. The second pillar of this concept is its hedonistic approach to the situation description and analysis. The essence of hedonism is in comprehension of the reality from the point of pleasure and pain dichotomy. Depending what (pleasure or pain) is prevailing in the consequences of human activity, they might be identified as positive or negative, thus, ethical or not. In this context, the greatest goodness is meant to be when the largest possible number of people is affected in a positive manner. In this context, Mill had developed his “the greatest happiness principle”. The essence of it is “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (Tittle, 2000, p.38). In order to qualify a certain action as ethical or not, Mill had developed his “hedonistic calculus”, which through identification of pleasure and pain characteristics makes a conclusion of question’s ethical nature. The main parameters of this analysis include intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity and extent. In the framework of these criteria, the main pleasure and pains of the target case are analysed and compared in the next.
Since the case study dilemma refers to business environment and is basically profit-driven, it is rational to start from the personal and common benefits which are driving this company to sell its cameras to the child pornography producer. From the point of intensity, benefits of the present deal would be immense for the company, because it would save it from the bankruptcy and give an opportunity to continue its activity. In this context, the greatest pleasure for the company and its president is money profit and company’s survival under severe conditions of stagnating economy. From the point of duration, the pleasure from this deal would be long-termed, since benefits from this contract are worth millions; the company will be able to withstand the current economic crisis and continue its future activity. It might be even able to do additional investments in research and development; which, in its turn, would contribute to its further competitiveness on the national and global markets (Tittle, 2000). From the point of certainty, the likeliness of pleasure occurrence is very high mainly because it refers to the field of economic transactions and is based on the law of supply and demand and market competitiveness; thus, the certainty of pleasure might depend on the trends of the global economy. Since they are not very likely to change overnight, economic success of this deal is guaranteed.
In order to get the whole scope of this theory, it is crucial to evaluate also pains of the issue. Since the last two aspects of analysis (purity and context) coincide, it is worth to outline pains in the framework of the first five criteria. The main feature of pains in this situation is that they mainly refer to the public goodness than to the company itself. The intensity of pain is quite high because the company would sell means for production for making and spreading children’ pornography. Duration of pain is long-termed and might be even longer than in case of benefits. In case of pain, certainty of negative implications for the global society is hundred percent, because those cameras are bought for child porno, and so it would be produced and spread. Propinquity of pains might be less immediate than appearance of benefits, but still not in a very different range. Multiplication of pains would be more likely than of pleasures, mainly because immoral products are spread faster than legal and official ones. From the perspective of utilitarianism, the main advice in this situation would be to give up personal pleasure for the common benefits; thus, personal negative consequences of bankruptcy could overcome common benefits of moral behaviour and protection of children’s dignity.
Unlike the previous concept, Kant was not paying most of his attention to the consequences of the decision; the essence of his ethics and moral was rational thinking as a core element of human decision-making and activity. He considered that a rational human being is acting ethically and morally because “following with ending up with some sort of logical impossibility or inconsistency” is fruitless and harmful both an individual and society; thus, no rational individual would want it (Tittle, 2000, p. 43). In this context, an individual is expected to treat other people the way he would want to be treated by them. Thus, respect to another person and his/her autonomy was the central idea of Kant’s approach. The main difference between his theory and the previous one is that he placed the main emphasis on the motive and reasoning for a specific action rather than its consequences. In this context, he meant that an individual simply could not predict all the implications of his decision and further action.
In the current case study, Kantian approach would suggest that the most ethically coherent decision was to give up the deal. The rational of such decision is in the following argumentations. First of all, company’s contribution to the spreading of children’s pornography would be seen as immoral in its very essence and any possible rationality. The Kantian rational of this act would be that, although initial motives of an individual were quite modest and moral in their nature, the final result was degrading initial nature of those intentions (Tittle, 2000). In this context, Kant’s condemnation of the act would be based on the fact that an individual knew exactly the immoral nature of the implications of the Swedish company’s activity. Thus, he was consciously deciding towards assisting (though indirectly) in immoral spreading of children pornography. From the central Kantian idea of rationality, decision towards making deal is also irrational in its long-termed perspective. In this case, Kantian theorisation would be that if everyone was immoral enough in making profits irrespective of further consequences, than business corporations would be allowed to make experiments on humans without their concern, scientists would sacrifice people in the name of greater goodness and the meaning of human life and dignity would be reduced to simple physiology and mechanics of existence. From the perspective of such rational, human society would eventually degrade to the level of the primeval community. Another essential aspect of Kantianism is that it suggests that any human activity should be based on honesty and openness. In this contest, Kant would already consider immoral and unethical the fact that Corello Company had decided to keep information of the possible deal in secret, not to speak of the deal itself. In other words, company could run its business ethically and morally only when it condemns deception and proclaims full disclosure of its activity and assets.
The last concept of virtue ethics puts entirely different emphasis on the problem analysis. In this context, the main object for discussion is not reasons for decision or its consequences. In virtue ethics, the main emphasis is placed on the personality that is behind those decisions and rational reasoning In this context, it would be crucial to understand what kind of person is standing before the decision and how this decision will contribute to personal happiness of an individual or his eudaimonia (Tittle, 2000). The virtue of an individual depends mainly on his own character, upbringing and culture of his social environment of existence. What might be just and ethical in one country or historical epoch might be entirely immoral and unacceptable in another one.
In the present case study, decision would be much conditioned by morality of company’s director. If his moral code and wisdom are overweighed by profit orientation, then he will easily justify his acceptance of the deal. The main rational would be that he was acting out of necessity than actual intent of contributing to spreading of the children porno. On the other hand, if the president is a highly moral person, believes in just decisions and is family oriented, he will reject this deal in order to keep his consciousness clear and moral. Of additional contribution would be whether he had a family of his own. In this case, decision would be definitely to reject the deal.
Another essential contribution of this theory to the explanation of the situation is socio-cultural environment and its morality. In this context, the president would be forced to refuse this deal because the moment it becomes public in Canada, his company will lose all public support and its further activity on the national market would be impossible. This is conditioned by the fact that Canadian laws and public opinion are very strict about issues of child pornography production and spreading. Although the situation with Swedish public opinion is entirely different and such issues are quite ordinary; the company would have to deal with public opinion of the country where its main market and federal responsibility are. So, the most rational and ethical decision would be to decline this offer.
Tittle, P. (2000). Ethical Issues in Business: inquiries, cases, and readings. New York, NY:
Broad View Press.