A categorical imperative is an unconditional and generally acceptable moral duty (Lara, et al. 2007). According to Kant, one ought to act in a manner which can be adopted in the universal order. In this regard, one’s choice of actions in a given situation should point to what can be universally acceptable and applicable. This maxim can have different interpretations but the most core thing is that the action undertaken be universally permissible. This maxim relates to the dictums that do to others what one would have them do to him.
Therefore, all rational beings and with a Good Will act in accordance with the categorical imperative and further to that evaluate their actions to ensure they are universally fitting. It is important to note that a categorical imperative is different from a hypothetical imperative. An imperative implies a command; while on the other hand, a hypothetical imperative is a preconditioned command (Lara et al. 2007). For instance, as a manager, one can be instructed as follows: if you fail to authorize selling of E-pills then the company will have no option but to terminate your services.
That is a hypothetical statement. But, to be more precise a hypothetical imperative points to those statements that are of a moral nature, for instance, the company will stop selling E-pills if the government pays its would-be loses. Here, the company evades moral responsibility by conditioning it to the government incentive. Hypothetical imperatives are not collective or absolute or universal because they are conditioned on some objective or aspiration.
However, there are criticisms in respect to the categorical imperative in that not all acts can be universally acceptable. This is true considering the era of ethical relativism where people have different opinions and suggestions. Consider the following example: A company is determined to go ahead in selling E-pills since the consumers like them. The company should not justify the act simply because it lacks grave consequences. Moreover, if it acts illegally it will be morally unjustified. Deontological moral theory is also a Non-Consequentialist moral theory.
While consequentialists believe that the end always justify the means, deontologists assert that the rightness of an action is not simply qualified by maximizing the good alone, it must be that the action fulfils what is considered moral (Schumpeter 2006). It is the inherent nature of the act alone that determines its ethical standing. Or better still, utilinitarianism believe that one should always exploit the good in his/her actions while deontologism believes that it is not the pursuit of the good but it is the moral worthiness in the act.
Virtue Ethics is not much concerned with rules, consequences and specific acts but is puts more emphasis on the subject of the actions. In other words, it is interested with the person who is responsible for acting. It holds that acting in accordance with given rules; or analyzing the good outcome of the actions is not what should only count. The most primary thing is whether the subject of the actions, in this case the individual, exhibits elements of good character or moral virtues or not (Garret 2005).
Unlike utilitarianism which is concerned with the maximization of the good in performing a given act, virtue ethics instead, focuses on the moral quality exhibited by the agent of the actions. Therefore, the dictum that the end justifies the means has no place in virtue ethics. On the other hand, deontologism is somehow a normative approach to ethics which typically evaluates the actions of an individual in relation to moral standards in the objective order. Both utilitarianism and deontology focus on the actions of the agent contrary to virtue ethics which is a complete turn to the subject that is acting.
According to Aristotle the good life is the conformity of the soul and all its operations to virtue. Virtue is classified into intellectual virtue and moral virtue, where in the former theoretical wisdom; practical wisdom and understanding are emphasized. In the latter case, what is emphasized is practical wisdom as pertains to development of habit (Haslip 2003). Aristotle states that the knowledge of virtue is not sought for its own sake like in Mathematics or Geometry, but is sought so that one can inform his way of acting. In other words, moral knowledge is strictly meant to be put into practice, period.
What makes an individual virtuous and good is not his/her knowledge about good or virtue, but it is the practice of the good or virtue (Haslip 2003). An individual can best acquire moral knowledge from his/her concrete experience. Social Values This study believes that social values cannot be treated separately from ethical values. In this regard, it would be a contradiction to insinuate that obeying the law is a social value but an immoral thing to do. On the same note, to argue that respect for human rights is a moral value but not a social value is also absurd.
In this light, this section will treat the aspect of legal compliance, human rights and social values as interchangeable concepts. For the sake of this study it would be worth while to mention the following social values as derived from Posner (2008) although there are many others: I. Common good II. Duty (Civic duty) III. Right (Civil rights, consumer rights, human rights) IV. Honesty and truthfulness V. Loyalty VI. Respect for law VII. Majority Rule As mentioned earlier, social values encompass legal compliance and human rights issues.
Common good refers to the physical, psychological and spiritual flourishing of the human person (Kunt 2009). Therefore, the three dimensions must be fulfilled to promote common good. For instance, even if the pharmaceutical company decides to sell E-pills because a lot of people demand them it cannot claim to promote common good due to E-pill’s side effects to the health of people. Here, three social values come into play, that is, majority rule, common good and consumer rights. Now, if the company decides to take heed of the government’s directive then it will contravene the three social values.
This study has already established that social values and morality are interchangeable concepts. It further would like to state that social values inhere in morality and not vice versa. In this regard, a social value can cease in meaning if it contravenes morality. So, majority rule or consumer rights or selective common good have no place in true morality if their intentions are morally void. Therefore, this pharmaceutical company cannot justify selling of E-pills on those grounds. Duty can be defined as the moral necessity to door or omit something.
It entails the thing that must be done or omitted (Lutz 2009). It is also worthwhile to note that duty exists and obliges independently of enforcement (Mason 2008). Duty is imposed by law, which by definition is reasonable and for the common good (Smith 2004). By implication, the pharmaceutical company has civic duty to obey the law. Secondly, it has a duty to ensure that only quality products get to the consumers. The accusation advanced by the government to pharmaceutical companies regarding lack of responsibility is a show of neglect of duty on their part.
Furthermore, forcing the product manager to authorize manufacturing of E-pills is also a breach of duty on the part of management. Managers are supposed to lead their employees by setting a good example. This goes hand-in-hand with respect for law. Right is that which squares with the norm of morality and thus is morally good (Wilson 1999). A right can also be defined as the moral power over what is one’s own, or more expressly, moral power or inner freedom to do, omit, hold or exact something of value (Flugel 2006).
Therefore, from a loose moral viewpoint the pharmaceutical company has a right to engage in a business it feels worth; the consumers have a right to purchase the products that satisfy their needs and the product manager has a right to whether or not supervise the manufacturing of more E-pills. This study wishes to remark that there is no right without duty and there is no duty without right. Also, both duty and right derive from law. Law can be metaphysical in the case of eternal law and it can be positive in the case of civic law. So, one can talk of natural duty or natural rights and civil duty or civil right.
Or better still, one can talk of alienable rights and duties and inalienable rights and duties. The right to freedom of choice been pursued by the pharmaceutical company falls under alienable rights or civic rights since there is nothing in natural law that invites human beings to use E-pills. In other words, use of E-pills is important but not necessary to the consumers. Employees have a right to express themselves and even step down on matters they are not free to handle. The product manager did a good thing by acting out of his ethical values; he acted out of good conscience which is laudable.
If the pharmaceutical companies took heed of the E-pills policy it would be a sign of loyalty, honesty and truthfulness. Moreover, the decision of the product manager in stepping down exhibited loyalty and desire for sincerity and respect of law. Judging the position of the company from a utilitarian perspective, they really make sense. If they go ahead to sell the product to avoid losses then they are morally justified. The avoidance of losses or optimization of profits is a desirable end. Internalization of morality is what constitutes virtue ethics. Therefore, it is not why one acts but it is more of who acts.
Business need to have highly moral professionals especially in top management function. The managers need to be people of high moral caliber to be able to lead their junior staff in the right direction. It is a pity to learn that the management instructed the product manager to go ahead with the selling of E-pills even after the government had banned them. So, the move by the managers has no moral values. This study still supports the decision of the product manager because he acted truthfully and in the light of his good conscience. Conclusion As can be seen organizational ethics poses deep moral crisis at some point in time.
In this era of ethical relativism there are many diverse ethical opinions that exist in many civilizations. This not only affects how people live in their communities but it extends to the workplace. This study has discussed the key ethical theories namely, deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics. It has also explored the theme of social values, legal compliance and human rights. This study has also shown how the three themes interrelate. Among the social values explored were: common good; duty; right; sincerity; loyalty; respect for law; and majority rule.
The position of the pharmaceutical company would cause mixed reactions if judged from different ethical theories. Utilitarianism and moral relativists would sympathize with the company while deontologists would take the position of the product manager. Virtue ethics would judge the actions of the actors per se. This study wishes to re-state that professional responsibility is not marked by how much one brings profits to the organization, but it is marked by how much one defends what is morally upright. Bibliography Flugel J. C (2006). Man, Morals and Society. London Garret T. (2005). Virtue Theory. London Haslip S. (2003).
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