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Ethical Theories Applicable To Ford Pinto Case Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1413 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Human lives are controlled by rules and regulations which are passed down to us from time immemorial to present day. Ethics is a general term which involves the aspects of rights and wrongs which determines the way in which humans live together in harmony in any given society. The purpose of this paper is to look at three different types of ethical theories and they are applicable to Ford Pinto case. The three main ethical factors to be examined in this paper are Utilitarianism, Deontologicalism and Virtue Ethics.

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Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which argues that any actions taken can be morally justified if it’s taken for the best interest of the society. The main commonly version of this theory is what is sometimes referred to as consequentialism. From a moral perspective, this terms refers to the way in which expected results is maximized for the utility of human good. As theory, it focuses on the outcomes or the results that comes from human actions. According to this theoretical framework, every decisions human make must be good geared towards the common good of everybody in the society. It emphasizes that as long as the majority of people in the society are happy then that particular action can be justified (Shaw 1).

Although, many philosophers don’t feel comfortable applying utilitarianism, professionals who work within the field of legal professions, politics, health and social care use it to greater extend ( Shaw 1). The proponents of this theory argue that that utilitarian theory is the best model for moral arguments because it “reflects the conviction that because well being is that ultimately matters, conduct should be assessed solely in terms of its impact on how well people fare ” ( Shaw 102). Basically this theory aims for the best outcomes of the society in general. However, the critics dismiss this moral principle because of different reasons. First, that it condones immoral conducts. Second, it cannot do justice to promises and other special obligations. Third, it is indifferent to the distribution of welfare and fourth, that it requires too much moral agents (Shaw 102).

The other ethical theories commonly used in the Deontological ethics that follows the approach of duty and obligations. This principle argues that actions should be based or governed by our moral duties and obligations. It emphasizes the need to obey the rules and duties regardless of the situations and circumstances that we find ourselves in. In comparison, the utilitarian principle argues that every moral issue is determined by the consequences it produces to the general society. But deolontological upholds that all rules and duties must be followed regardless of the consequences or outcome of the situation. Some of the main proponents of this theory are Immanuel Kant argued for the case of moral absolute. This means that moral values are based on absolute which cannot be changed regardless of the situations. In most cases, this theory is closely connected with divine commandment which emphasizes the need for keeping strict moral codes of conducts (Kant 123).

Deontological principle is universally applied to all people regardless of cultural setting or geographical locations. The proponents of this theory argue that it safeguards the society, making it a safer place for people in live. The critics argue that this theory is selfish and too rigid, it does not allow people act according to their situations they find themselves. For example, it maintains that no should kill regardless of what, but there are times or situations which will force us to kill for self defense in order to protect our lives, homes or beloved ones (Beauchamp 85).

The third major ethical theory is what is referred to as Virtue Ethics which emphasizes human behavior as the main determining factor in considering and making moral decisions and not rules. The main proponents of this theory argue that the most important thing is moral goods which every one must apply to the community of their own setting. In a sense, when this goodness is put into practice, it produces positive moral results. However, the critics argue that it is difficult to determine the difference between someone character of being and the practical nature of their action. For example, if some lies, it is difficult to say that they lied because their of characters or because of the situation or environment they find themselves. At the same, the critics argue that character is socially constructed and therefore what is referred to a good character in one social environment can be totally different in another context (Murphy 140). In relations to Ford Pinto, the case study shows that is was about an accident which took place involving a Ford Pinto and a Chevrolet Van which hit the Ford Pinto from behind. The Pinto was being driven by an 18 years old Judy Ann Ulrich accompanies by her sister Lynn Marie who was 16 at the time and cousin called Donna Ulrich was also 18 years old. As the result of the accident, all the three occupants died from fire burns. However, it was later discovered that fuel tank had some defects which actually killed more than fifty people in the incident. The matter was taken before the court and the judge ruled that one of the victims should be compensated with 6 Million dollars. This opened the door to further lawsuits. Although, Ford Company paid the victims and the heft fines imposed on them, they knew that if found of homicide then the company might be taken out of the market place (Ford Pinto Case 2).

The prosecution produced witnesses who claims that driver of the Pinto was moving at a very low speed on 15-35 MPH which could have caused the rupture of the gas tank even though it was hit from behind. Although, Ford Company won the case on homicide, it made Americans car corporations to take measures for protecting the public against incidents. All the three ethical theories can be applied in this situation. The deolontogical principles, would argue that regardless of the arguments presented by the Ford Company as their defense, they are still duty bound to protect the lives of every one who uses their cars. They are criminally liable for prosecution for killing even though indirectly. It is their duty and obligation to protect the drivers regardless of the situation and accidents (Ford Pinto Case 2).

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While the Utilitarian theory would argue that it is the end that justifies the means. What happened main be tragic to the families concerned, but in the end it made the America Motor corporations to take appropriate measures to protect millions on other Americans. This accident produced better outcomes to the American public. Furthermore, the virtue ethics would that the decisions made by the directors portray their characters of putting profits before human lives. There characters can be defined in terms of greed which makes them feel unsympathetic to the feelings of the victims. Therefore, the best course of action would depend on one ethical view (Ford Pinto Case 2)


I this paper I have examining the three main ethical theories, mainly the deolontological ethics, utilitarian ethics and virtues. All these theories have strengths and weaknesses especially applied in practical situations. For instance, the Deolontological ethics emphasizes the need to uphold the duties and rules, while the utilitarian looks at the bigger picture, of the end result. Whereas the Virtue ethics follows the contents of character which in a way product good result. Out of these three, I would advocate for virtue ethics which emphasizes the need for being rather than doing. In other words, when you are good, you will end up producing good results.

In application, the Pinto case, the argument and results would also differ according to ones ethical views. The proponents of deolontological principle would argue that the directors are duty bound to protect the public and therefore in this case they are liable for criminal prosecution. The utilitarianism would argue that what is important in this case is that it brought better security to millions of American by highlighting the some of the dangers of reckless driving. While the virtue ethics would argue that the directors of the Ford are after profits and are therefore controlled by greed, which culminates from their characters


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