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Ethical Theories

Discuss about the Normative Foundations Of Critical Theories.

Ethics are certain moral duties that help to systemise a work or culture and differentiate in between the right and wrong (Shafer-Landau, 2014). Ethics are defined as good habit by the Greek anthropologists. It concentrates on the human morality and classified into three parts such as meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. According to Rushworth Kidder, ethics helps to find out the morality within a human being. In the words of Larry Churchill, ethics direct the human action and maintain the human capacity. Moral agents are the person who separate the positive from the negative and decide their action based on that. The main objective of the moral agents is to observe the situation so that no unjustified harm can take place (Forcehimes, 2015). The executive members of a company are playing the role of moral agents and their duty is to take a vision on the company affairs In case of any wrong activity, they should have to give necessary advice to the management in order to avoid the unjustified harm.

The proper approach of the moral agents regarding ethics is to be determined and according to the philosophers, moral agents follow the normative ethics (May, 2017). Normative theories help the moral agents to point out the right and wrong action. However, normative theory can be divided into certain parts such as utilitarianism, categorical imperative, virtue ethics and intuitionism. Ethical decision of the moral agents is multi-dimensional. The dimensions can be categorised as: (i) sense of social responsibility, (ii) organisational culture, and (iii) organisational policies taken by the moral agents. It has been observed that there are certain companies, where the moral agents had not maintained the ethical approaches and that wrong activity led the company towards its winding up process. This report will discuss about such two companies and will point out the duty and role of the moral agents and ethical dimensions to denote their action. 

Ethics are the moral principles that determine the nature and character of an act or work. The philosophers have divided the ethical approaches into three parts: meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. The duties of the moral agents are influenced by the normative ethical approaches (MacKinnon & Fiala, 2014). In general, normative ethics are denoted certain ethical actions that are to be taken place during the performance a job or determine a duty. It makes an investigation to the action taken by the moral agents and determines the standards of an action. It is different from the meta-ethical approach and do not concentrate on the metaphysics or lingual aspects. Moral agents are governed by the normative theory as this theory made an attempt to investigate the reason that makes an action right or wrong (Honneth, 2014).


However, philosophers have divided the theory in certain parts. The first part can be called as utilitarianism. This theory attempts to determine the rightness and wrongness of an action by the virtue of cost-benefit analysis. The supporters of this theory believe that an act can be good or bad as per their consequence. If the consequence is good, it will be called as right and if the consequence is bad, it will be termed as negative work. The utilitarian supporters believe that a person should not discriminate others with the intension to earn benefit for them. Everyone has an opportunity to choose either good or bad action. Person should concentrate over the consequence of an action (Christians et al., 2015). However, it is not mandatory to apply this theory only in case of making a decision. The theory can be applied in every possible steps of a human being.

The second part of normative theory is known as categorical imperative. This theory deals with the rationalism and control the behaviour of a person. According to Robert Johnson, the rationalism is governed by the universal law and motivates the people so that they could not undermine others with an object to feather their own nest.

The third part of the theory can be called as virtue ethics. The main profounder of this theory was Aristotle. This theory concentrates on the personal happiness and suggests taking all the right action to fulfil the happiness (Frederickson & Rohr, 2015). However, it should be kept in mind that the notion of Aristotle regarding the happiness is quite different from the pleasure. It is the rational duty of the person to develop the standard with the help of good things and should not deceive others. 

The fourth and the last part of the theory are known as intuitionism. W. D. Ross had coined the theory to explain the nature and character of right and wrong action. It has been observed by Ross that people has certain prima facie duties and that duties can be divided into certain parts such as duty of fidelity, duty of reparation etc.

Therefore, it can be stated that the main objective of the normative theory is to verify the action of a person whether the action done by him is right or wrong. In this report, two different cases has been discussed on the duties of the moral agency. The moral agency denotes the capability of an individual to judge the nature of an activity and determine required action based on the rightness or wrongness of the act.

Categorical Imperative

Moral characters are playing an important role and it has been observed that the character is depending on the theory of normative principle and empirical psychology. The character evaluates the moral qualities of a person and consists of virtue and vices as well (Trevino & Nelson, 2016). Morality should have certain characters such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty and loyalty. These characters help to grow the moral nature within a human being and assist to achieve the goal rightfully. The moral characters are necessary to make an ethical decision (Brey, 2014).

In this report, two different case have been discussed where the moral agents have failed to maintain their duties properly and both the companies were held liable for ponzi scams. The executives of the both the companies are Bernard Madoff and Bernard Ebbers. Bernard Madoff was a financier who had made false promise to certain investors to invest their savings and was being charged under the offence of fraud, money laundering and theft (Azim & Azam, 2016). The process adopted by him is called Ponzi scheme. However, Ponzi schemes are not illegal, rather quite profitable. In this scheme, the promisor collects money from investors and repays the promised amount to the old investors and makes a huge profit (Baer, 2014). However, if the promise maker does not repay the amount to the investors, the act becomes illegal. Madoff was a well known person in the financial world and therefore, it becomes easier to him to attract the investors and grab their money and flown off. It has been observed that the accountant and the personal legal advisor of Madoff had to face imprisonment for such scam (Lewis, 2016).

Similar mishap has been taken place in case of Bernard Ebber. He was the CEO of WorldCom. He was held liable for the scam of $100 million and secured his place in the five biggest and historical Wall Street scam of all time. Ebber had joined as a financier in the Long Distance Discount Services. Later he joined as the CEO of WorldCom, which is a telecommunication-based commercial house. Before the appointment of Ebber, the managing director of WorldCom made certain fraudulent entries. After his joining, he came to know about these entities and conspire to falsify the financial reports. However, the activities were suppressed and came into light after the publication of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. However, the American court had pleased to pass an order of imprisonment for a term of 150 years to him.    

Virtue Ethics

Therefore, it has been observed from the cases that both the persons, Bernard Ebber and Bernard Madoff were the executive members and very well known in their respective fields. Therefore, they should have played the role of a moral agent. However, it has been observed that they failed to do so and engaged in certain scams to gain own profit. According to the normative theory, the moral agents should not make any profit in illegal way or with any illegal purpose. They should have to determine the rightness and the wrongness of an action and decide their working criteria based on that. They should apply ethics while completing their works and all their works should be based on rationality.

As per the theory mentioned by Emanuel Kant, a moral agent should act in good faith and should maintain a good will. It is clear from the Utilitarianism theory that all the important positions holder of any entities or the moral agents should have to act for the production of good possibility and assess the moral codes for the betterment of humanity and justice (Richman, 2014). However, in these cases, it had been observed that none of the executive rank holder had fulfilled their respective duties and engages themselves in certain illegal activities. All of them had taken an active part in the scams and flown away with the money of the investors. 

It is important to apply the ethical prospects to the decisions of the moral agents such as the apex managements and mention a mandate for them to understand the ethical perspectives. It is the duty of the moral agents to verify their actions on the basis of the normative theory. Normative theory helps them to identify and point out the rightness and wrongness of the action so that they can decide an action framework. According to the utilitarian, courage can be considered as an element of morality. Aristotle's discussion of moral character and virtue in particular, is the most influential treatment of such issues. For this reason, his discussion will be used as a beginning point. A moral agent must have certain moral characters and in case of normative ethics, the characters must include certain major approaches such as consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. The application of the consequentialism theory points out the action that takes place to get the best result. As per deontological theories, the term morality is based on certain duties and can be considered as ethics of rules. However, the last approach is quite different from both of these. It concentrates on the habits of the individual and not to the rules. There are certain psychological aspects of the character and it has been observed in most of the cases that the characters are divided into two parts such as the moral and the immoral. All the agents, who are morally responsible for an act, can be regarded as moral character or moral agents and the person lack of this character can be treated as non-moral person.


However, it is the moral responsibility of the agents to maintain the positive mentality and set out plans according to the nature of the acts. It can therefore be stated that the moral agents should have to show certain reactive attitudes towards the action they have taken. The reactive attitudes can be renamed as the Traditional View of Moral Character. It helps to think of the Traditional View as a family of similar and related views, rather than a fully developed and determinate view itself. The moral responsibility will lead to the moral development.

In the cases, it has been observed that the executive members as well as the associated members of both the companies have failed to maintain the rules stated above. They were hold a respectful and important position of the companies and it were their duties to step in the right track and provide necessary guidelines to the investors. However, it has been observed that they have failed to do so as they were engaged in certain scams to earn their own benefit (West, 2017). It has also been noticed that they had adopted certain fraudulent methods to cheat the investors who believed them for certain purposes. All the moral responsibilities that have been discussed and prescribed by certain eminent scholars and philosophers were being denied by them and they had failed to fulfil the requirements of the moral agents.

In the case of Bernard Ebber, it has been observed that he came across the truth that his company had forged certain financial documents and falsify the finance report. As the CEO of the company, it was his moral duties to inform the proper authority and maintained a moral approach regarding the same. However, the real event is something different. It has been observed that he had not taken any action regarding the same and involved in the scam of $100 million. The executive members of the company are treated as the moral agents and they investigate the rightness or wrongness in a job or work and implement certain guidelines based on the same. Therefore, it can be stated that Bernard Ebber had failed to comply with all the moral duties and ethics.

In case of Bernard Madoff, similar situation had cropped up and he engaged in a Ponzi scheme that placed him in the historical scams of the Wall Street (Peterson, 2016). It has been observed that he had collected money from the investors by make a promise to double their money and after collecting all the capital, he had flown away without keeping his promise. He was a reputed financier and he should maintain the rules prescribed in the normative theory (Mandell, 2015). There are certain features too that should be maintained by them.

  1. D. Ross had stated certain duties to be maintained by the moral agents during their operation of works such as duty of fidelity, duty of gratitude, duty of reparation, duty of beneficence and duty of no injury. The main objective of duty of fidelity is to keep the promise that has been made to others. However, it has been observed in both the cases that the executive members had failed to perform the duty of fidelity and failed to keep the promise. The duty of reparation has not been maintained too. Intuition is the way contemplation that can lead to knowledge of self-evidence. Ross had stated that the duties should have to be determined first and then the agent should implement the same to others.

Case Studies: Bernard Madoff and Bernard Ebbers

In both the cases, it is important to apply the provisions of normative approaches. It is the duty of the moral agents to foster certain ethical approaches for the benefit of the organisation. It should be immoral if they will engage their idea to earn secret profit by denying the ethical rules and behaviour. Researchers are identifying an array of beneficial outcomes arising from “ethical leadership,” including increased willingness of employees to use voice to improve their organization, greater employee job satisfaction and sense of well-being, and increased trust in organization leaders, both from employees and the public (Gibson, 2016). However, Local government is a vital focus for ethics research, given that local jurisdictions across the globe have democratic mandates and responsibilities for disbursing significant quantities of public funds. It has observed in both the cases that both the moral agents had to face harsh penalties and lifetime imprisonment for the acts they had done during their working session.

According to Bryman, leadership can be defined as “a process of social influence whereby a leader steers members of a group towards a goal”. The construction of the ethical leaders are vague as in focusing on influencing mechanisms, they do not specify normative reference points that ethical leaders can use in promoting followers to behave ethically. However, it can be stated that the moral agents should abide by the principles of normative theories to avoid any ethical dilemmas (Bernard et al., 2016). 


It can be concluded that ethics are playing an important role in determine the behaviour of human being and prescribe suggestion on the rightfulness of the human action. There are certain kinds of ethical approaches present of which normative approach make an attempt to determine the duty of the moral agents and prescribe certain framework so that they can make all the important decisions based on the same principle. In this report, two cases are being discussed that point out the ethical duty of the executive members of a company and consequence they have to face on violating the ethical principles. The executive members of the companies are known as the moral agents and they should have to maintain certain wise steps for the betterment of the company and secure the interest of the others. The object of the normative approach is to notice so that no one can earn illegal gain or profit and they should have to make a proper action plan after analysing the rightfulness of the action (Deason, Rajgopal, & Waymire, 2015). In both the cases, there were certain common factors. It has been observed that both Bernard Ebber and Bernard Madoff had infringed the rules of the moral agents and deceived others by non-maintaining the promises. According to Gregory Bigley, a moral agent should have to maintain the provisions of the normative ethics as they are holding an important position and they should not deceive the others for the interest of equity and justice.

The Role of Moral Agents


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