Answer the question:1.
Watch the very short video on “The Trolly Problem.” What would you do? Be brief. (here is the link of video: The Trolly problem)2.
One of the worst disasters in NASAs history, the Challenger explosion could have been avoided. If you were a Kantian–living your life in accordance with the principle of the Categorical Imperative, how would you have handled the situation? ( case in upload file) (if u need to take a look Kantian Ethics, check the file as well)
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More Questions and Alternative Scenarios for the
astronauts aboard died, and the shuttle was grounded until it could fly safely.
The explosion resulted from the failure of O-rings to seal in the booster rocket
joints, apparently because of unusually low temperatures that day in Florida.
The catastrophe is also remembered as a classic example of alleged retribution
against whistleblowers by their employer-Morton
Thiokol, Inc., maker of
the shuttle’s booster rockets. Some Thiokol employees were critical of the
company and of NASA in their testimony before the presidential commission
investigating the accident, and they believed that they were punished as a
result. Most notable among these individuals was Roger Boisjoly, an engineer
who for several months had voiced concerns about the O-rings and whose
warnings against launching Challenger were ignored.
For a year before the Challenger explosion, Boisjoly conducted research into
concerns that low temperatures could compromise critical joints and seals in
the shuttle’s booster rockets. He advised his superiors about his concerns, but
they did not view the matter with the same degree of urgency. On the evening
before the Challenger liftoff, Boisjoly and other engineers opposed the launch
because of the low temperature. After NASA officials objected, Thiokol senior
managers overruled the engineers and authorized the flight. After the disaster,
Boisjoly was initially placed on the investigating team. But after testifying
before the Rogers Commission about the disagreement over launching the
shuttle, his position was changed and he was isolated from NASA and the effort
to redesign the seal. After the commission chairman criticized the company for
what appeared to be punishment of Boisjoly and Allan McDonald, another
engineer whose testimony was critical of Thiokol and NASA, both men were
given their jobs back. A couple of months later, however, Boisjoly left Thiokol
on extended sick leave .â?¢
1. It is generally conceded that the Thiokol engineers did what they could to
prevent the Challenger launch. But did they? In view of what was at stake, did
they have a moral responsibility to do more? What more could they have done?
2. Consider the following scenario: After the engineers are overruled,
Boisjoly calls a major television news reporter and goes public with his concerns. The story is aired, the flight is stopped, and Boisjoly is eventually eased
out of the company. How do you assess the moral character of Boisjoly’s
actions? Are there conditions under which a whistleblower has a moral obligation to publicize a matter outside company channels? Even ifhis or her job will
be at risk?
3. Imagine that when the reporter checks with an engineer at NASA, she is
told that Boisjoly is absolutely wrong and that the risk is minimal. Not having
enough time to check out the facts, the reporter chooses to kill the story and
tells Boisjoly of her decision. Boisjoly then calls another reporter and anonymously claims that a terrorist group has planted a bomb on the shuttle. As a
rocket engineer, Boisjoly is able to convince the reporter that the threat is
genuine. The story runs, the flight is postponed, and the shuttle launches
safely on a warmer day. The original reporter never reveals that Boisjoly called
her, and Boisjoly keeps his job. Assess the moral character ofBoisjoly’s actions.
Are there conditions under which a whistleblower has a moral obligation to
resort to deception or law breaking?
4. Imagine that Boisjoly’s original story is reported, the flight is delayed,
and Boisjoly is gradually eased out of the company. The news story causes
a precipitous drop in Thiokol’s stock price. The price remains depressed for a
year while the O-ring problem is solved. The next launch is successful, but a
massive unrelated computer malfunction causes the shuttle to burn up during
reentry. NASA decides to cancel such space flights for good, costing Thiokol
millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs. Assess the moral character of Boisjoly’s actions.
Boisjoly, Russell P., Ellen Foster Curtis, and Eugene Melican, “Roger Boisjoly and the Challenger
Disaster: The Ethical Dimensions,” Journal of Business Ethics, 8 (1989),217 -230.
Rossiter, AI, Jr., “Company Sidelines Exec Who Objected to Challenger Launch,” Sunday StarLedger, May 11, 1986, I, 10.
Slide 1: Picture of Kant
Today we are going to talk about one kind of moral perspective.
A moral perspective is an approach to understanding moral
issues; it generally gives us an outline, guide book, or decision
procedure for thinking about and evaluating moral problems.
When we are presented with or find ourselves in a moral
situation or problem we need to find a way to make a decision by
identifying what is morally relevant and make a moral judgment.
The moral perspective we are going to talk about today is called
Kantian Ethics, and is derived from the work of the 18th century
philosopher Immanuel Kant. This perspective on moral theory is
considered to be one of the greatest moral theories in Western
philosophy. Kantâ??s theory of ethics is vast and too hard for us to
cover explicitly. Nevertheless, there are many central points that
we can get a solid grasp on, and use to analyze moral problems
we may face in the working world.
His theory of ethics not only provides us with clear a foundation
for ethics, but also good tools for identifying moral issues,
analyzing them, and making a decision about what to do. Since
much of his work is very controversial, I will be presenting just a
sketch of some of the central components, and an outline of
related ethical perspective known as â??the moral rights traditionâ?.
Let me begin by locating Kantian ethics within a classification of
general kinds of moral perspectives. By doing this we will see
what kind of moral perspective Kant is giving us.
Slide 2: Classification of Kinds of Moral Perspectives
Action Oriented Moral Theory
Moral theories can be classified in terms of the kind of thing they
take to be the object of moral evaluation, that is the thing in
virtue of which something is moral. One kind of moral theory
takes persons to be the primary objects of moral evaluation,
while another kind of moral theory takes actions to be the
primary objects of moral evaluation. When a moral theory takes
persons to be the primary object of moral evaluation the
fundamental issue is over what it is to be a good person and to
live a good life. When a moral theory takes actions to be the
primary objects of moral evaluation the fundamental issue is
whether a specific action is morally good, such as donating
money to the poor.
In addition to that basic distinction, of the theories that take
action to be the primary objects of moral evaluation, there is a
further distinction made on the basis of what is used to
determine whether an action is morally good, permissible, or
obligated. One kind of action based theory of moral evaluation is
consequentialist. A consequentialist theory holds that an action
is morally good in virtue of the consequences of the action, and
not in virtue of the intentions of the agent in performing the
action. A non-consequentialist theory holds that an action is
good in virtue of some feature other than the consequences of
the action; one common feature that is cited is the agentâ??s
intention in performing the action.
Kantâ??s moral theory is an action based theory of ethics, as
opposed to a person oriented moral theory, and it is a nonconsequentialist theory. It takes actions to be the primary
objects of moral evaluation; however, it does not take
consequences to be of central importance. Rather, the central
feature of an action that it takes to be of importance is the
intentions that went into the action. From the Kantian moral
perspective whether an action is morally good or not depends
primarily on the intentions of the agent performing the action.
All of the situations listed above are possible with regard to
That is we can have an individual that commits an action with
good intentions, but for some reason or other the consequences
are negative. For example, in trying to save someone by pushing
them out of the way of a runaway train, I may end up killing them
because I push them into a car making a left turn.
Or we could have a case in which I intend to kill someone, but for
some reason or other, I end up saving them. For example,
suppose I give someone some poison at dinner. However, the
dish they ordered is actually one that is going to kill them
because of some allergic reaction. But, the poison I gave them is
actually an antidote for the allergic substance in the dish. So,
though I intended to kill them, I end up saving them.
And of course there are situations in which both the intentions
and consequences are negative, and situations in which both the
intentions and consequences are positive. Successfully killing an
innocent person for the fun of it is a good instance of bad
intentions and bad consequences. And successfully saving
someone from being tortured when you can do so and because
morality demands it, is perhaps a case in which intentions and
consequences are good.
Remember, on Kantâ??s view what matters most in determining
whether an action is moral is the intentions that go into the
action, and not the consequences. Now, let us move into some of
the basics of Kantâ??s moral theory.
Basics of Kantâ??s Theory
One basic question that needs to be answered is the following:
What makes an action a moral action?
For example, scratching my nose because it itches is not a
particularly moral or immoral action. It appears as if morality
doesnâ??t apply to it. Closing the blinds in my house because it is
too sunny also appears to be not really that moral or immoral.
However, what about helping someone across the street because
it makes me feel good or saving a drowning child because I want
a good reputation?
Again, the question is what makes an action a moral action.
To get Kantâ??s answer to this, let us look at an actual example he
Suppose you are a shopkeeper, and could overcharge an
inexperienced customer, and make more money off of him.
However, you decide not to do so, that is you fairly charge him,
although you could get away with charging him more for the
Now let us consider three possible reasons you might give for
doing this action.
1 Fairly Charging the
2 Fairly Charging the
3 Fairly Charging the
Because it makes me feel good to
Because if others found out I was
an unfair shopkeeper I would lose
Because it is the right thing to do.
The Moral Law demands that I do
this out of principle.
In all of the cases above the action is the same, however Kant
holds that only in case (3) is the action a moral action. Cases (1)
and (2) are simply not moral actions. In case (1) your action is
based on an immediate feeling of a certain kind, you do the
action because it makes you feel good; you are motivated to do
the action because it makes you feel good. In case (2) you have a
desire to avoid a bad consequence, and it is that desire that
motivates the action. However, in (3) you are motivated to do the
action because it simply is the right thing to do, deriving from
So, why does Kant hold that (1) and (2) are not moral actions?
The consequences were the same as (3). The actions were in
accordance with what the moral law requires us to do: be fair.
His basic reason for holding that (1) and (2) are not moral is
because each one is based on something that is contingent.
Because (1) and (2) are based on something that is contingent
they do not apply universally and necessarily to all human
Let me now draw out Kantâ??s central conception of morality. Kant
holds that there is a moral law that is universal and timeless like
the laws that govern mathematics and physics.
Here is a line of reasoning Kant would use to show that (1) and
(2) are not moral actions:
1. Morality is universal and necessary.
2. Thus, if an action is a moral action, it must be based on
something that is universally applicable and necessary to
3. Specific desires are not universal and necessary.
4. So, no action based on having specific desires can be
universal and necessary.
5. So, no action based on having specific desires is a moral
Returning to our example, Kant basically holds that if you decide
not to overcharge the customer because of some desire you
have, such as the desire not to be deemed an unfair shopkeeper
or the desire to feel good because being fair makes you feel
good, then your action is based on something that is contingent,
non-necessary and potentially not universal; which makes the
action lack moral value.
In general, for Kant, when an action is based on desire it is
contingent, and thus not universal and necessary. Why are
desires contingent? Desires are contingent for two distinct
(a) People have the different desires.
(b) A single person may not have the same desires over time.
For example, if you decided to not overcharge the customer
simply because it didnâ??t feel good on Tuesday to do so, then what
if on Wednesday it did? If you are not overcharging the customer
flows from a desire that you donâ??t have on Wednesday, you are
going to overcharge the customer, and commit morally bad
action. The problem is that the action would not be grounded in
something stable over time, because it is based on a desire that
can change over time.
In addition, perhaps you feel good when you donâ??t overcharge
your customers, but perhaps another shopkeeper feels great
when he gets away with swindling a naive customer. If the
morality of the action was based on having a certain desire, then
we run into the problem that morality cannot be universal, and
applicable to every one, since not everyone has the same
So, for Kant an action is moral when it is done from duty. That is
when it derives from the moral law. The idea is rather strong.
Many times you can do an action that has good consequences,
and maybe even neutral desires, such as wanting to be fair, yet
Kantâ??s view is that the action is moral only when it comes from
duty and the moral law.
Now that we have got the core conception of what makes an
action moral for Kant, let us look at some of the tools Kant
provides us for thinking about morality. In particular tools for
thinking about what kinds of intentions are intentions that can be
Kantâ??s main principle that governs actions and intentions is his
Categorical Imperative. There are four distinct versions of this
principle. We will be looking at the two most commonly used
Universal Formulation: Act only on those maxims which can be
willed to be a universal law without contradiction.
Kantâ??s universal formulation of the categorical imperative is a
filter that can be used to take out maxims that we cannot act on.
A maxim is a technical term in Kantâ??s philosophy; it refers to a
subjective principle of action. A maxim is basically a full
specified intention for committing an action. A maxim has the
general form â??I will do action A in circumstance C in order to
achieve end E.â? Kantâ??s universal formulation tells us that we
cannot act on maxims which cannot be turned into universal
laws applicable to all humans. Kantâ??s basic idea is that if a
maxim when universalized leads to a contradiction, then it is
impossible for it to apply to all humans.
The classic example that is used to show how the principle is
applied, and determines that we cannot act on a specific maxim
is the case of making false promises. Suppose the following
I make a false promise that I will repay a loan in a situation in
which I know I wonâ??t have money to repay a loan, in order to get
We might ask ourselves: Can that maxim be universalized
In the universal form it looks like this:
Everyone will make a false promise to repay a loan in a situation
in which they donâ??t have money to repay a loan, in order to get
Now we ask ourselves: Is there an explicit or implicit
The answer is that there is a contradiction here.
The only way that the institution of lending can work is if people
keep their promises. If people always broke their promises, then
no one would ever take anyoneâ??s promises seriously. If no one
ever took anyoneâ??s promises seriously, then no one would ever
lend anyone money on the promise that they would pay them
back. And so there would be no institution of lending for one to
make a false promise to in order to get money.
Whenever we act and look at the actions of others there are
three things we can do:
(a) Formulate the maxim we are acting under â?? it will have the
form â??I will perform act A in circumstance C in order to achieve
(b) We can universalize the maxim â?? that is look at in a form
where it applies to everyone, such as â??Everyone will perform act
A in circumstance C in order to achieve end E.â?
(c) We can look for contradictions in the universal form. If there
are contradictions in the universal form, then we know we
cannot act on that maxim, since if a maxim leads to
contradiction it is one that we cannot act upon.
The universal formulation basically leads to some simple
questions we should ask when attempting to determine whether
we can act on a certain maxim:
(a) Is the maxim one that everyone can act on without
(b) Would I accept someone acting toward me with this maxim?
Kant also offers us a second formulation of the Categorical
Imperative. The second formulation is much easier to operate
with and use as a guide to determining if something morally
problematic is at play in a given case.
Humanity Formulation: Act always so as to treat another never
as means only but as an end in themselves.
Kantâ??s humanity formulation allows us to focus on two points of
importance to his moral philosophy.
First point: Donâ??t use people merely as a means to some goal you
want to achieve without taking into consideration the fact that
they are an end in themselves.
Second point: Persons are basic entities of respect.
So, in a given situation we can ask ourselves two questions:
(a) In performing the action I am performing, and acting under
the specific intention I am acting under, am I using anyone
merely as a means to an end, and failing to treat them as an end
(b) In performing the action I am performing, and acting under
the specific intention I am acting under, am I taking into account
that persons are basic objects of respect.
If an action you or another takes fails in either of these ways,
then the action is not morally permissible.
In order to understand Kantâ??s second formulation in more detail
we need to introduce the idea of fully informed rational consent.
To rationally consent to something is to agree to something
based on reasoning about it.
Here is an example that brings out the need for this idea:
Suppose you go to the post office to buy a stamp by paying the
postal clerk. In performing that action you are in some clear
sense using the postal clerk as a means to an end. The end is
acquiring stamps; the means is paying the postal clerk. So,
should we say that you canâ??t buy stamps from the postal clerk
because you used him as a means to an end?
The answer is no? Bec …
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