An Assessment of Morality by

What the curious applicants did from the point of view of egoism, utilitarianism, Kant’s ethics, Ross’s pluralism, and rule utilitarianism.

From the point of view of egoism, the applicants are morally right as long as their action promotes their long-term interest. If their “action produces or will probably produce for them a greater ratio of good to evil in the long run than any other alternative, then that action is the right one to perform, and the agent should take that course to be moral.”
I believe that in terms of egoism the applicants were not acting morally. The applicants’ choice to “hack” into their file and view their application acceptance early would in no way promote their long-term interest. Whether they found out that they were tentatively accepted or tentatively rejected, it would not make a difference in the long-term. No matter what the outcome of their acceptance, it isn’t something that wasn’t going to happen, the outcome was already determined, and finding out early would not be beneficial to their self-interest. If the applicant chose to wait, they would be acting more egoistic because egoists believe that “temporary sacrifice is necessary for the advancement of one’s long term interests.”

From the point of view of utilitarianism, the applicants are morally right as long as their action produces the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by their action. Act utilitarianism states, “that we must ask ourselves what the consequences of a particular act in a particular situation will be for all those affected. If its consequences bring more total good than those of any alternative course of action, then this action is the right one and the one we should perform.”

In terms of utilitarianism, the applicants were not acting morally. Act utilitarianism states, “we must ask ourselves what the consequences of a particular act in a particular situation will be for all those affected.” The applicant must not only consider themselves and their future, they must also consider their family, other applicants, the university, the current student body, and future applicants. Finding out their early acceptance might seem like a good way to solve their current anxiety, but the outcome might be an unhappy one, and if caught their reputation is on the line, which is exactly what happened.

Kant’s Ethics
From the point of view of Kant’s ethics, the applicants’ actions were anything but moral. Kant maintained, “that an action is morally right if and only if we can will it be a universal law.” He asserted, “it is not enough just to do the right thing; an action has moral worth only if it is done from a sense of duty—that is, from a desire to do the right thing for its own sake.” When we act out of feeling, inclination, or self-interest, our actions have no moral worth.

The applicants to the prestigious MBA programs were not doing the right thing, and in no way was it done in a sense of duty. They were acting in their own self-interest; they did not take into consideration their motivation and if that motivation was out of moral conviction and not only for their own benefit.

Ross’s Pluralism
From the point of view of Ross’s pluralism, the applicants’ actions were not moral. Ross contended that we are faced with different moral duties that cannot be reduced to the single obligation to maximize happiness. Different relationships and different circumstances generate a variety of specific moral obligations. Ross sided with common sense morality; he supported equal rights and human rights, and found guidance in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The applicants’ actions do not fall under the exception of a prima facie obligation, there were much more important obligation than knowing their acceptance status early. The university had an obligation to give the acceptance notification in a timely manner in accordance with their application policies. It was unfair to all the other applicants that respected the universities policy; all the applicants had equal rights. They did not consider how their actions would impinge on the rights of others.

Rule Utilitarianism
From the point of view of rule utilitarianism, the applicants could actually be morally right. This theory maintains that the standards should be applied to moral code as a whole, and not to individual actions, they adopt moral principles that guide individual action. The “optimal” moral code must be reasonably taught, obeyed, and inculcated at a practical cost. While better than act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism still determines moral principles by their consequences.

If it were applied over the entire society that it is okay to find out early about a decision, then society would embrace maximum happiness. Say it is taught that it is okay to find out early about college acceptance, job promotion, job termination, other countries plan etc., then society will be better prepared of outcomes and would enjoy maximum happiness. Society would not have a negative consequence in this decision because it would be adopted by society as a whole.


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2 Comments so far

  1. noore on March 29, 2009 2:39 pm

    in your view was it wrong for the MBA applicants to take an unauthorized peak at their application

  2. s on October 14, 2010 9:32 am


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