Ethics is the conscious reflection on our moral beliefs targeting to improve, extend, or refine those beliefs in some way. Kantian moral and Utilitarianism theories attempt to respond to the ethical nature of human beings. Immanuel Kant’s deontological ethical theory evaluates if actions are moral based on the person’s will or intention of acting. Kant’s theory can be categorized as a deontological because actions are not evaluated to be morally acceptable depending on the consequences they yield, but rather on the form of the agent’s will in acting, consequently the morality of an agents actions is based on duty and not consequences. Kantian ethics are founded on values of maxims, willing, and the categorical imperative. A maxim is a general rule or principle explaining what a person takes him or herself to be doing and the conditions in which he takes him or herself to be doing it (Feldman 201).This maxim can be applied universally. That is, the maxim can be applied reliably to everyone who comes across similar situations, therefore willed as a universal law.
Willing as the second aspect of Kant’s theory involves the agent consistently committing oneself to carry out an action in a similar situation. A person will is inconsistent if he wills that x be the case and he wills that y be the case and it’s impossible for x and y to be the case together. The main facet of the categorical imperative of Kantian theory of ethics is that one must act in such a way that they can will that the maxim behind one’s actions can be conceived as part of the universal law. The maxim has to be consistent and applicable to every condition, for every person. The differences between imperfect and perfect duties are the additional major point of Kantian moral theories. Perfect duties are those duties that one must always perform in a particular context, whereas imperfect duties are those that one must execute only when the circumstances come up.
Utilitarianism is an alternative theory in which its main aim is to clarify the nature of ethics and morality. It is founded upon utility, or doing that which produces the utmost happiness. According to this theory, the ethics of act is based on whether the consequence yields the utmost total utility for everybody. However, if the greatest possible utility is not attained, the action is then morally wrong. A person should act as to yield the utmost overall happiness and pleasure for everyone who may be affected, directly or indirectly, by the action. Utilitarian require that for every action the corresponding consequences for every action should be thoroughly evaluated and that options suggested before deciding whether to execute such an action. Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism are similar in the respect that they both try to explain how one can act morally, nevertheless they vary in areas of gauging morality and their usage of rules. Both Kant and Mills theories measure morality in varied ways.
According to Kantianism an act is believed to be moral if it is done for the sake of duty and if its maxim can be willed as a universal law. If one finalizes an action based on their duty to execute, they do the correct thing because it is what they feel they should to do as their duty. Consequently, this act would be considered ethically just. Utilitarianism would only see the act as morally allowable if the consequences of that action yield maximum utility and happiness for all involved. Kantian moral theory values the universal law and maxims as its guide for how people should act in a given situation. Maxims describe some general situation, and then suggest some form of action for the situation. To adopt a maxim is to commit oneself to acting in the defined way whenever the situation in question arises. (Maxims are also used consistently throughout and therefore are a valued guide because they apply universally). For instance, Kant made an ethical rule for lying, which states that if a person can make a lying-promise, then it should be said that everyone can do the same and therefore it being universal law reliance would be self-defeating. The universal law or rule, states that no one can lie under any situation. Kant has also developed similar ethical rules for rusting of talents, helping others in distress, and suicide. Kantianism is therefore a rational and logical theory in which decisions can be made.
In comparison, Utilitarianism has no universal rules on to which ethics are based and therefore they judge each situation independently. Because of this, in gauging consequences to determine if an action will maximize utility this can become a long, time-consuming process and the fact that you will never know if your decision will in effect truly promote the most utility. In evaluating the two moral theories, Kantianism provides a more plausible account of ethics even though from the outside it seems as though Utilitarianism would be the more ethical theory because it looks to maximize utility. Utilitarianism refers to ethical theories, which uphold that an action is ethically correct if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable. Consequently, correct moral behavior is determined by analyzing an action’s consequences. Utilitarianism needs the tally of both the good and bad consequences of an action. Then determine whether the total good consequences outshine the total bad consequences.
If the good consequences are greater, then the action is ethically proper. If the bad consequences are greater, then the action is morally improper. It seems as though this process is more subjective and cannot be universally applied whereas Kantianism can be. One’s person determination of what yields the greatest utility may not be consistent with another person’s, therefore this theory is inconsistent and a universal law cannot be applied from it. Kantianism is more consistent of a theory and can be universally applied to all beings. It is more plausible because even if the consequences of performing an action are not the best, the agent is still indebted to execute the action because it is there duty to do so. Therefore, ethically and morally they are doing the correct thing.
Kantianism is a theory based on duties, maxims, willing and the categorical imperative. Utilitarianism is based on the idea that we ought to do whatever yields the greatest overall utility and this will be the morally right action. Kant holds that his philosophy is useful because a clearer understanding of ethics can help strengthen humanity’s ethical sense. This is because when a reader is informed on the issues surrounding the moral question, then they can make an informed decision. For example, a reader who has a clear understanding of the Kantian categorical imperative and Mills utilitarianism and agrees with the Cartesian theory will still know that it does not apply in all cases. For example, a person may be forced to lie for a good cause.
Both theories have clear differences, although they are comparable in some ways. Kantianism concentrates on the inspiration of actions, has clear and separate set of universal rules, and is ethically logical. On the other hand, Utilitarianism relies on the consequences of an action, has no set universal laws as each action is evaluated on an individual basis, and morality is based on the results of the valuation.
According to Kant, every rational action must set before itself not only a principle and an end. Most ends are of a subjective kind, because they need only be pursued if they are in line with some particular theoretical imperative that a person may choose to adopt. For an end to be objective, it would be necessary, that we categorically pursue it. The free will is the basis of all rational action. However, to treat it as a subjective end is to deny the option of freedom in general. Because the independent will is the source of moral action, it would contradict the first formulation to assertion that a person is a means to some other end, rather than always an end in themselves. On this basis, Kant derives second formulation of the categorical imperative from the first act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.
By combining this formulation with the first, a person has perfect duty not to use the humanity of themselves or others merely as a means to some other end. As a slave-owner would be effectively asserting a moral right to own a person as a slave, they would be asserting a property right in another person. However, this would violate the categorical imperative because it denies the basis for there to be free rational action at all, it denies the status of a person as an end in them. One cannot ever suppose a right to treat another person as a mere means to an end. The second formulation also leads to the imperfect duty to further the ends of others and ourselves. If any person desires perfection in themselves or others, it would be their moral duty to seek that end for all people equally, so long as that end does not contradict perfect duty.
Emmanuel Kant’s Categorical imperative has profound implications to business organizations tactics. Kant contends that persons should not be seen merely as means to an end but rather should be treated with respect for the individual and the humankind. Because businesses are run by persons, the Kantian theory can be construed to mean that the way an organization treats its personnel establishes the business morality or lack of it. According to Altman (p. 255), business bodies have the ability to transact and therefore meets the criteria for ethical judgments.
If business bodies carry out actions that are ethically pertinent, different adaptations of categorical imperative can be applied to establish the ethical acceptability or unacceptability of business tactics (Altman 255). It is plausible to argue that individual moral values quite in a distinctive manner, determine personal productivity in a business organization (Scott 478). In the pattern of categorical imperative, it is appropriate to develop a model of logic that breeds uniformity in decision-making. This would rein in the differences caused by carrying individual philosophies within a business organization.suc a general pattern is found in the universality principle of categorical imperative.
According to John Bruhn, every business body has made a moral or ethical character, i.e. has taken a stance on purpose or otherwise, officially of unofficially, that establish its limits of ethical conduct (p.206). According to Bruhn, businesses, through commission or omission, asserts how as a group will act and how individuals are supposed to act in the business in an organization (p. 206). It would then seem apt that businesses should adapt a code of ethics. This, though, as good as it sounds is not consistent with Kantian ethics. A code of conduct, according to Kant’s ethical philosophy is a set of rules to be adhered to and ensures that personal reflection and rationale and upshot is not possible. Kant rejected the reduction of human beings into moral machines who follow some set of rules guiding their conduct as if they have no ability to reason. As Peck posits Kant’s categorical imperative does not offer a machine-like framework, as critics appear to suggest (p.209). Kant deontological theory is duty based. According to him, what makes a deed right or otherwise is not the results. On the other hand, the categorical imperative states “act in accordance to a maxim or a principle which can, simultaneously, be applied as a universal maxim. Central to categorical imperative is personal accountability. Individuals act, ideally, after a meticulous processing of facts. This is a major pointer to the inapplicability of Kant’s moral theory in business. This however does not mean that persons ca never be held accountable for their decisions within a business organization.
In conclusion, although Kant’s moral theory can be applicable to the business tactics, there are some limitations to it as pointed out.