Duties and Obligations: Whistleblowing
The major alternative to Consequentialism is an ethical theory known as Deontology, or “duty theory”. Deontological ethics is concerned with our obligations to follow certain ethical rules and principles (our “duties”), which the deontologist believes takes moral precedence over the consequences of our actions. While the consequentialists argue that we should maximize happiness (“the good”), the deontologists stress our obligation to follow ethical principles (“the right”).
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Your assignment for this lesson is write a (500+ word) post discussion how professional obligations and duties can inform your choices on the job. When, if ever, are principles more important than consequences? In particular, I’d like you to think about when your professional obligations require that you “follow orders”, and when your professional obligations require that you “break the corporate script” and disobey orders. In a business environment, you may find yourself with multiple, conflicting orders, some of which violate ethical principles or your own value system. How do we decide which values and principles ought to determine our actions? This issue is brought into high relief by the issue of whistle blowing, especially in the debate between De George and Birch over the details of the Pinto case. Should Pinto engineers have blown the whistle on the poor management and design decisions at Ford?
- Richard De George, Ethical Responsibilities of Engineers in Large Organizations
- Douglas Birsch, Whistleblowing, ethical obligation, and the Ford Pinto case