Individual Duty Ethics Case Study: Volkswagen Diesel Vehicles

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In 2014, an independent study commissioned by the International Council on Clean Transportation showed that Volkswagen diesel cars’ levels of nitrogen oxides were 40 times the permitted amount. However, Volkswagen diesel vehicles were equipped with a software that recognized when the vehicle was undergoing testing and then activated equipment that reduced emissions. After the testing was completed, the equipment was deactivated, and emissions increased above regulation levels. This software was installed in more than 11 million vehicles worldwide over nearly a decade. During this period, the vehicles were advertised as “clean diesel” vehicles. Another issue was in this case was that although the company was given the results of the independent …show more content…
Kant believed that an action is considered moral when “the will” is perfectly aligned with “duty.” Morality is only dependant on the purity of the will, not in the action made, decision made, or its consequences. The will is the faculty that animates our body actions and can be trained for good or bad. Duty is independent of the will and means to be obedient to moral law. Kant also believed that all rational beings owe a duty to rationality, so rational moral principles should apply to all rational beings in all possible situations. This means that one cannot carve an exception for one-self. When a person acts, it is through a maxim. A maxim is a subjective principle that governs a person’s actions. The act is only moral if the maxim seems to pass the test of the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative test consists of making the maxim in question to become a universal law by which everyone acts. Thus, if the maxim produces either a contradiction in conception or in the will when universalized, then the maxim fails the test. Rule utilitarianism is similar to duty ethics because it states that there is a universal set of rules that we should abide by to make moral decisions. However, the difference is that rule utilitarianism choose those rules based on whether that rule leads to the optimal consequences if an overwhelming majority in a society accept …show more content…
It lines up with both duty ethics and rule utilitarianism. The rule utilitarian prefer the long term effects and consequences of “don’t pollute” message of the Clean Air Act because everyone can benefit from the clean air. For duty ethics, the maxim “I shall not pollute anyone else’s air” could be universalized. Furthermore, the NSPE Code of Ethics Section III.2.d states that “Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development in order to protect the environment for future generations.” Therefore, Liang was morally wrong in helping pollute the environment. Note that there are instances that law and morality do not align. An extreme example of that is slavery because it was allowed by law but was not under morality. Similar arguments can be made for cheating on the pollution tests and lying to the public. Rule utilitarians would consider Liang’s acts is morally wrong because they do not conform with the rules “don’t cheat” and “don’t lie” that lead to optimal consequences by a majority of people. Duty ethics would consider Liang’s acts is morally wrong because “I shall cheat on the emissions test” and “I shall lie to customers about my product” would fail the categorical imperative test. Again, the NSPE Code of Ethics that Liang should have followed as an engineer claims that “Engineers shall acknowledge their errors and shall not

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