Duty Ethics Essay

944 Words 4 Pages
In recent events, James Liang, an employee of 30 years for Volkswagen, came forward admitting to using software to deceive emissions tests in the United States for Volkswagen’s diesel engines. The engines, on average, produce 40 times the legal limits on emissions. After undergoing investigation, it was found that Volkswagen had been involved in this scandal since
2006. In response to public outcry the company has recalled all models using this engine and set aside 16 billion dollars to fix their mistake. However, for Liang after admitting his guilt, he intends to help bring others responsible for the scandal to light. The consequences Liang faces for his part in the scandal are 5 years in prison and the possibility of being deported. In this
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Duty ethics or Kantian ethics focuses on the purity of the will rather than the consequences of one’s actions. Kant defines will as what animates the body. In other words the will is where the ability to choose takes place. In Kant’s theory our will can be considered good if it acts out of duty. To govern one’s actions, Kant relies upon maxims. A maxim is a subjective principle that governs action. In Kant’s view a maxim should be universal and tested using the categorical imperative.
The first method to test a maxim using the categorical imperative is to act only according to a maxim where you can will that it should become a universal law without contradiction. In addition you must act as if the maxims will become universal law through your will. The next step is determining if it is a perfect duty or imperfect duty. A perfect duty is defined by a maxim contradicting itself. For example if it was morally acceptable to lie then the concept of truth is lost. An imperfect duty is more situational in that it is something one should strive towards.
Should one not perform an imperfect duty there is no problem in Kant’s view. An example of this is the refining of one’s skills. Overall, Kant’s theory is about creating standards that
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Although one could argue Liang decided to follow this maxim, there is a more likely possibility that he hoped to receive a lesser punishment for his assistance. In the end he may only be using his fellow conspirators as a means to an end.
Liang’s accomplices may just be used by him in the end but, this wouldn 't be the first time he has used people. By cheating the emissions test anyone who bought a vehicle using this engine would be polluting without their knowing. From Kant’s perspective this would violate the maxim “Do not deceive others to break their moral values”. Without knowing if a moral action is right or wrong morals would be pointless making this a perfect duty. These people being deceived would not have dignity in the choice of vehicle they purchased. For Kant removing the dignity or autonomy from a person leads to a loss of proper moral choice for that person. By removing information for people Liang would be held in contempt by Kant.
Although Kant and a rule utilitarian would condemn Liang’s actions, they would have distinct reasoning behind their decision. Liang’s choice to come forward is ruled by ethical egoism as opposed to duty ethics or rule utilitarianism. Kant’s focus on Liang sees only

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