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Katian’s Ethics Theory, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 826

Essay

Ethics are one of the most widely discussed ideas of philosophy, something that has been discussed by different thinkers throughout time with each adding their own ideas on the topic. Two influential schools of thought on this topic are Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative and the idea of utilitarianism often attributed to Jeremy Bentham. These ideas both detail their thinkers’ ideas on what the right, moral thing to do is (Paul). These ideas can be used for great deals of different situations, one of which is business decisions. Business ethics is a subfield used to evaluate the morality of decisions made in a business environment.

One case in which business ethics becomes crucial can occur regarding the safety of the products a business is selling. In the case study a food supplier, Nutritional Foods Inc., was given reports that its products may have been responsible for two cases of food poisoning in separate regions on the West Coast. Specifically, it was their non-pasteurized apples that were the potential source of the problem. Due to this, they need a very efficient supply chain and production method to avoid the potential of bad food reaching the market. When two new cases came up, Nutritional Foods dispatched employees to the four counties who each reported that their food was at fault. After a few more cases of this type, they decided to recall their product ( At this point, their question was whether or not to pull all of their products. This decision can be informed via Kant and Bentham’s schools of thought.

The theory of utilitarianism is a one account of morality. The idea is that everyone should try to act in a way that maximizes universal happiness while minimizing unhappiness (History of Utilitarianism). This means that the consequences of actions must be taken into account in a broad sense. For Nutritional Foods the theory of utilitarianism would mean weighing the pain of those who ate it, against the consequences that may come to them through the recall. In utilitarianism, the societal effects must be considered, not just the effects this decision will have on them personally.

Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is the theory that there are certain actions which must always be performed for the sake of morality. Unlike utilitarianism, in which each decision is weighed in the specific context in which it is occurring, Kant sought to create a theory which would hold up universally and be less subjective (Kant’s Moral Philosophy). For Nutritional Foods this means trying to act according to what should always be done. The question is therefore whether or not it is okay to sell potentially spoiled food in any case, not just with the situation present for them in this case.

Utilitarianism in this case would mean weighing the considerations of the shareholders and Nutritional Foods against those who might eat their food. Since the source of the food poisoning is the apples, a potential recall would mean pulling food that will not necessarily make anyone sick. The company will have a much more difficult time denying their own liability in any future lawsuits regarding the food. On top of this, there will be the lost sales from the time the food is off the market as well as the lost reputation for the company. All of this is for the low possibility that a food other than their apples is contaminated which does not seem worth doing in utilitarianism.

The categorical imperative would take the opposite view in this case. In this case, they would not have taken into consideration their own interests nearly as much.  Instead the question would have been bases around the ethical advisability of selling food with a higher than normal contamination risk. This would universally be seen as an immoral action for the company to take. The reasoning here is that in all situations the potential harming of their own customers is immoral.

Utilitarianism is much more subjective than the categorical imperative. The idea of universal morality means that we can usually come to an agreement as a society on which actions are always going to be immoral. For example, murder or in the case of Nutritional Foods, endangering others, are always going to be seen as immoral regardless of the mitigating circumstances. In utilitarianism there is more room for opinion as the company’s interests are weighed against the interests of the potential consumers. For this reason, I would support the categorical imperative as in this case it is less likely for the company to convince themselves that acting in their own self-interest is ethical.

Works Cited

Hanson, Kirk O. “The Case of Nutritional Foods.” The Case of Nutritional Foods. N.p., Winter 1998. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://www.scu.edu/ethics/dialogue/candc/cases/nutritional.html>.

“The History of Utilitarianism.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.  <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/>.

“Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.  <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/>.

Paul, Richard; Elder, Linda (2006). The Miniature Guide to Understanding the Foundations of  Ethical Reasoning. United States: Foundation for Critical Thinking Free Press. p. np.

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