What is the most moral perspective?


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A paper I wrote on "What is the most moral perspective?" for my Ethical Leadership class at Northeastern University, MA.

I argued that Kant's perspective on duty-based ethics is the most moral in light of strong ethical leadership.

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What is the most moral perspective?

  1. 1. What is the Most Moral Perspective? There are many moral perspectives that have been taught and discussed throughout history, each with strong and weak points. My belief is that Immanuel Kant’s perspective of duty-based ethics is the most moral in light of strong ethical leadership. There are three arguments why this is true but first let us define, “morality.” Kant’s belief was that an action was only truly moral if the motivation behind it was pure and without ulterior motives. Therefore, moral actions are judged according to the reasoning behind them and not their consequences or outcomes; these actions are not based on one’s own needs, desires of feelings. This perspective of morality has interesting implications. 1. Radical Egalitarianism First, those who make the laws also were subject to them; this is radical equality! The main principle or law of Kant’s perspective says, “We should act in such a way that we could want the maxim (the motivating principle) of our action to become a universal law”. Another way to describe this guiding principle, or, “categorical imperative” is, “rational beings are simultaneously the authors and the subjects of the principles they execute through their will.” This means one’s actions would have to be consistent, autonomously regulated and universal. This radical equality makes sure that human beings are treated as having intrinsic value by leaders and those in charge, this means equal pay for both genders and making decisions – on an equal playing field – together as the factory workers of Buenos Aires did. 2. Categorical Imperatives as Autonomous Legislation According to Kant, only, “autonomous legislation can yield a categorical imperative.” Whereas, motivations such as: self-love, sympathy, and fear only require adherence to a moral code when they are present. Glaucon, Plato’s sparring partner questions this human nature by telling a story of a special ring that has powers of invisibility. The wearer of this ring can act in any way he pleases, without consequences. Glaucon proposes that any human being would take advantage of this power; except one that was truly just by nature and not for fear of consequences. This is similar to John Rawls perspective on justice that humans would act justly and create just laws if they did not know what place or class they held in society. I am sure the Australian government would treat asylum seekers differently if they were the author and subject of their own laws. I am sure that Nazi Germany would never have come into existence if they were to experience their own laws. This is a key aspect of strong ethical leadership, as we have to put ourselves in the shoes of those we are leading to make sure we are using our power for good; not to create injustice. 3. Using Reason and Critical Thinking to Define Morality Lack of critical thinking can get in the way of sound decision-making and strong leadership. According to Kant, “moral truths…are based on reasons that make sense to all people…who
  2. 2. bother to think about them.” This reasoning must be drawn from pre-defined intent or “good will” and not from any other motivation or previous experience. Kant argues that all motivations can be used for good or evil, it is only the intent or “good will” to do good that is the only true intrinsically good motivation. Emotions can be present though, as long as they are not the incentive for a moral action. Pierre Ferrari is a fantastic example of this as he wanted to make his ethical clothing line SweatX about rational business and the right thing to do; not a, “touchie-feelie…social exercise”. However, in reality humans are emotional creatures and it is hard to separate desires and feelings from reason. It is this idealism in reasoning and critical thinking that tries desperately to be objective and take away the mess of human emotion when making decisions; and what makes Kant’s theory of morality so powerful when considering strong ethical leadership. Reference List Bailey, T 1999, Understanding the German People’s Participation in the Third Reich, Florida Gulf Coast University, viewed 6 July, 2014, <http://itech.fgcu.edu/&/issues/vol2/issue1/german.htm>. Borges, M 2002, Kant On Sympathy And Moral Motives, Florianópolis, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 183-199. Brooks, C 2014, ‘Lecturer 2’, The Ethical Leader 90374, Learning Materials on Blackboard, Northeastern University, 31 March 2014, viewed 6 July, 2014. Ciulla, J Martin, C & Solomon, R (eds) 2014, Honest Work: A Business Ethics Reader, Oxford University Press, New York. Denis, L 2012, Kant and Hume on Morality, Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, viewed 20 July 2014, <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-hume-morality/>. Elder, L & Paul, R 2014, Becoming a Critic Of Your Thinking, Foundation for Critical Thinking, viewed 6 July 2014, <http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/becoming-a-critic-of-your-thinking/478>. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: Summary, SparkNotes.com, viewed 20 July 2014, <http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/kantsgrounding/summary.html>. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: Overall Analysis and Themes, SparkNotes.com, viewed 20 July 2014, <http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/kantsgrounding/summary.html>. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: Chapter 1, SparkNotes.com, viewed 20 July 2014, <http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/kantsgrounding/summary.html>. Laughland, O 2014, Amnesty calls on Australia to return 153 asylum seekers to shore, The Guardian, viewed 20 July 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/17/amnesty-calls-australia-return-asylum-seekers- shore>.