Volkswagen Utilitarian Ethics

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Volkswagen is under investigation following reports from the EPA that they had installed software into their engines that deceived emissions testers. Furthermore, engineers updated this software in 2014, claiming that they were improving the vehicles. James Liang, a senior engineer who had worked for Volkswagen for 30 years, admitted to investigators in September of 2016 that he had designed the software in question. Further investigation has revealed that this conspiracy may have involved executives of the company. It is unknown to the public whether Liang was acting under orders when he designed the software or he decided to create it on his own to meet requirements his superiors gave him. Both rule utilitarianism and Kantian duty ethics…show more content…
Rule utilitarians look at classes of actions, such as lying, giving to charity, and murder, in a two step process. First, a majority of people must accept the action as morally correct. Then, morality can be determined by the results of the action. For example, if a majority of people were to accept murder as good, many people would be hurt. Therefore, murder is morally wrong. Unlike Kantian ethics, where intent is important and consequences are irrelevant, rule utilitarianism solely analyzes the results of a class of actions, regardless of the intent behind them. Kantian ethics and rule utilitarianism disagree on the morality of creating a “defeat device.” This device determined when its engine was undergoing emissions testing then switched from its normal operating mode into a lower emission mode. The normal emission mode was 40 times the limit dictated by the Clean Air Act [1]. By creating a dirty engine, Liang contributed towards the destruction of the atmosphere. This will negatively impact the quality of life for many future generations of people. Because damaging the environment negatively impacts millions of people, rule utilitarianism declares it to be morally wrong. The prosecution of six executives of Volkswagen, including the head of engine development, indicate that Liang’s superiors were involved in this conspiracy from the beginning [2]. The most applicable maxim to this situation is “I shall fulfill
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