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A Moral Theory Of The Consequentialist Ethic

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2459 words Published: 8th May 2017

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The consequentialist ethic is a moral theory. This theory is based on the idea, that the moral value of an action is based upon consequences. Decisions to act are taken according to the consequences, that favour most either one individual or one group. The main objective is the maximisation of happiness. Therefore, moral ethics is based on the obtaining of good results. The consequentialist ethic is based on two main and different theories. The first one is based upon the obtaining of good consequences and benefits for an individual. This is the Egoism. The second one focuses upon the benefits for the group or society of the individual. This is the Utilitarianism.

Jeremy Bentham has defined the human action in this extract:

The consequentialist ethic could be a support the Eastern textile industry. Asian textile producers have a strong competitive advantage compared to Western producers. Indeed, the Asian labour is cheap compared to Western labour. It ruined the textile sector in the West. Wages cannot be lowered to match competition from Asia, prices are not lowered, either at the risk of bankruptcy. The ultimate consumers selected Asian textile products, because they are less expensive. This vicious circle destroyed the economy of western textiles. Western producers have two choices to survive. Either specializes in markets not occupied by their Asian competitors (market demanding high quality products). Or relocate their production to East Asia to benefit from cheap labour. Otherwise they are doomed to disappear.

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This is due to the choice made by the Asian producers, who distribute low wages. This decision is consistent consequentialist. Indeed, the Asian manufacturer that uses the cheap workforce that cares for its own benefit. In taking this decision, it ignores the consequences for competitors and for its employees. It is only based on its profit to come, either the positive consequences of his action for him. He therefore considers this action as “good”, because it will be profitable.

This is a good example of egoism. This situation the Asian producer is the individual. His decision to pay its workforce more weakly than its competitors is its action. The search for maximum profit, symbolizes the positive consequence of his action. The egoism in this case, is characterized by the fact that this situation benefits only for him.

It is also an example of utilitarianism. The search for personal gain is acting in the interest of the group. This contributes to the effect of “Invisible Hand” enunciated by Adam Smith.

In doing so, the producer increases his personal benefit, but also that of his family (Wage increase), firm (Increase turnover), and his country (GDP growth). Its action based on the positive benefits for the group.

Furthermore, consequentialist ethics, applies a slightly different way to Asian workers. Their ways of doing things is closer to the universal egoism. That is to say that the choices they are still dependent on their consequences. But it maximizes the happiness of the group, not more than one. Wages earned by workers, can feed families, permit children to go to school and raising living standards. Universal egoism permits the association of “egoist” if they have a common goal or interest.

In summary, Asian producers may be used the consequentialist ethic, taking decisions based on analysis of the consequences. If the action can be beneficial enterprise for him – including his profit-maximizing, then it must execute. Producers need to assess the consequences of each decision before applying. Only decisions leading to positive consequences should be retained. Producers should not take into account the negative impact on their foreign competitors.

The consequentialist ethic can also concern the Western Consumers. At the individual level the Western consumer will search the product with the best value. The consumer is faced with two choices possible when it wants to buy textiles. Either buys the cheap Asian product – often of poor quality-. Either buys a Western product, a greater range -ensuring the quality in general-. To choose its product, the buyer can act by egoism or utilitarianism. That is to say that he will rely on consequentialist ethics, analyzing the consequences of his act before acting. If the consumer decides to support the western producers face, it will consume Western. The future customer will therefore seek to consume local or national and avoid products imported from Asia.

From an Individual Egoism point of view, the consumer will move towards the cheapest product. The consequence of this act is the acquisition of a product at the lowest price offered on the market. The consumer only thinks the consequences of his act that directly affect them. It will therefore have difficulty in using Western.

From an Universal Egoism point of view, the consumer will evaluate the impact of purchase for the group. That is to say to his country. It will consume Western because it is what produces the most positive consequences for their group. Eating local helps stimulate the economy of his country. This could lead to rising employment, wages, for example, which ultimately produces an overall growth for the country.

Utilitarianism theory based on the acts, leads consumers to ask themselves the following question: “The act of buying the Western product, in this context, there positive consequences?” (From Wikipedia) The future customer will evaluate the context before acting. The context here is the loss of competitiveness of textile companies faces the West Asian competitors because of higher wage costs. This context has a direct influence on price. In his quest protectionist the consumer will buy Western to support its economy. This theory ignores the positive consequences before carrying out the act. It is based on the decision context. This theory is defined by Harsanyi in the following extract:

Utilitarianism theory based on rules, leads consumers to ask themselves the following question: “The adoption of the rule must consume Western did have positive consequences?” (From Wikipedia) According to this theory, the transition to action should not be based on the consequences of the act but on the monitoring of a pre-established rule. The ruling covers all of the consequences of the adoption of a rule. This theory is explained by Harsanyi as follows:

If the rule is followed by all consumers in the market, then it will maximize the positive consequences of these actions. If this rule applies only to a single person or a small number it will not help, nor a positive effect.

Consequentialist ethic is based on seeking the maximization of happiness. To do this the agent must evaluate the future consequences of his act, before the realization. If satisfied that the property will be maximized by the consequences of his act so he can achieve. In the example of Asian textile producer and the Western customer, both can adopt a consequentialist philosophy. This may have the effect of the object, then they are two players in a given market, and they therefore have to interact together.

The analysis of the consequences of an act prior to its implementation may seem quite realistic in the economic framework. In general the research of an economic agent is to maximize its profit, not its happiness. This is particularly true in the context of a company whose goal is to create wealth. To achieve business operates through rules. This helps avoid the unexpected. The actions follow rules and procedures. They are rarely judged individually.

A Chinese textile producer organizes its production to achieve the best returns while having low labour costs. This organization allows it to be more competitive in terms of selling price compared to its Western competitors. But for that it must abandon the qualitative aspect of the product, focusing only on the quantity (economies of scale). But the quality of a product creates happiness. This is reflected in the pride of the worker and the satisfaction of the purchaser with respect to product features (comfort, strength …). Consequentialist ethic which relies on the Chinese producer take a highly competitive market, may also justify the opposite strategy. Thanks to this example, it is easy to see that consequentialism is not an absolute theory. It is also criticized by some authors.

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In the above excerpt focuses on the proportion of uncertain when an individual makes a decision. This uncertainty is due to the possible lack of information. Indeed, the agent is acting when consequentialist believes that its actions will maximize happiness. Now to be sure, the officer must be informed of the situation surrounding before acting. That is not always possible. The agent will then make a decision based on his morality, but also information that may no longer be valid.

The other limitation of consequentialism highlighted by Ruegger (University of Fribourg) is the emotional bond that can exist between the actor and another individual involved in the action. The author explains that a relationship, or friendship, necessarily guide the choice of the agent. This factor will be stronger than the will to follow consequentialist ethics. In the case of Western consumer, this argument can easily be proved. Indeed, if the consumer chose the product with Western may be influenced by the fact that work-or a parent-for the Western firm that sells the product. He will choose the product it is indirectly linked to the detriment of the Asian product.

These arguments can question the merits of consequentialist ethics. The consequentialism is a theory that seeks to promote the best actions. But the notion of morally good action seems random. It varies depending on the position of the individual faced with a situation. What are the influences experienced by the individual which are implicated here. More precisely: “the lack of information, which may influence the decision of the agent” (Hare, 1976). The existence of a link between the agent and another actor in a situation will influence the final decision (according to Ruegger). In the case of the Asian producer and consumer Western consequentialism also has its limits. The ultimate consumer may judge that would allow him to eat Asian savings and thereby increase its profit. For the Asian manufacturer, it could decide to increase the salaries of its workers to increase their happiness.

“Consequentialism can be interpreted as a philosophy, but not as an ethic.”

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls challenges utilitarianism. It highlights the fact that the actor is the sole judge of its actions according to this theory. But the individual judgments cannot be regarded as necessarily just.

The ethics of virtue is based study knew the character of the individual. This ethic is composed of virtues that is to say, of character traits. For Aristotle, the four cardinal virtues are courage, modesty, Generosity, and spirit of justice. Today its list of virtues is longer. The actions of individuals are considered good when they are consistent with these principles. In addition to considering the character of the actor must take into account the circumstances of the action.

For example, an honest person is defined as follows:

For Aristotle, the virtuous man is he who chose the voice of moderation. Asian Textile producer must follow this path to adopt the ethics of virtue. It must change its behaviour. Here are some examples of virtuous behaviour. Higher wages and improved working conditions. That is to say be fairer.

Increase the quality of products on the market. To do this we must invest in machinery, but also in training workers. That is to say, to show courage by taking a different route from Asian competitors.

The Asian manufacturer must rethink the way they act to adopt the ethics of virtue. By adopting this ethic, it may present on the market products that meet the expectations of Western consumers: the best quality products. And also improve its image. Some producers still use child labour. It hurts their image. By adopting the ethics of virtue, this situation could change. The product quality can be improved. This can be guaranteed by winning international awards such as ISO Standards. The quality of the work environment and the training of workers can also be improved.

The use of virtue ethics should lead to the adoption of virtuous behavior. This may allow the Asian producers, to respond differently to Western consumers. This requires a change of image. Improving the image can give confidence to consumers and thereby attract and retain them.

Campodonico show in the excerpt below, the place of ethics of virtue today:

In this excerpt, the author argues that the adoption of the virtues described by Aristotle is still possible today. An Asian textile producer can adopt the ethics of virtue. The author focuses on the rapidly changing environment. But he thinks that ethics defined by Aristotle can cope with this kind of context.

However, it should be noted that the ethics of virtue is not always applicable in today’s business environment. Indeed modern management organizations are often based on different values ​​of ethics. The main example is the “corporate management”. It is the management of the company by shareholders. This form is becoming increasingly important in modern economies. In this type of management decisions are often made ​​in relation to their potential profitability. On the other hand, decisions are often made by groups (board of directors, lobbyists …). The decision to act based on the judgments of several individuals. This makes it difficult to apply under behavior, as all individuals within a group don’t necessarily virtues. The final decision may be devoid of ethical virtue. Given this context of virtue ethics seems to be a good idea, but impractical.

He should remember that virtue ethics is another way for the Asian manufacturer to behave on the market. She has differences with consequentialism. The main principle of this ethic is the study of the character of the actor, rather than the consequences of his actions. The goal is similar, is act morally right and good. The principles of virtue, whose bases were designed by Aristotle, remain valid even today. But there are serious doubts on the possibility of applied in modern company.


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