Moral dilemmas are a part of daily life and the solutions presented to them are usually dependent on the ethics that govern the individual facing them. Every person at one point in time has been faced with a moral dilemma. This can be described as the values which are used to determine the right way to handle a situation and the wrong way to go about it. Each society and community has its own moral index and in some societies, an action may be viewed tolerable or right, while the same action in another community would be viewed as intolerable and frowned upon.
The moral index of a society usually goes hand in hand with religious beliefs and communities which are religiously inclined to have strict rules on what is suitable behaviour and what is not. Societies which have more secular values usually tolerate extreme or eccentric behavior. The difference in opinions of different people in what is normally right and wrong has led to the development of various ethical theories. Two of these theories are utilitarianism and duty ethics. An example of a situation which brought about different ethical stand points is the Firestone Company tire recall in 1999 and 2000.
The company had discovered that its newly designed firestorm Radial ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires were defective back in 1996, after 8 of the 18 times were singled out after they failed a test that tested the endurance of tires under high speed. Of the 14. 4 million tires sold approximately 6. 5 million tires had to be recalled due to defects in the details which involved the tread and one steel belt separating from the other steel belt and carcass The details has led to serious and even fatal accidents as the cars overturned when the accidents occurred while they were in motion.
In an attempt to show difference between utilitarianism and duty ethics we shall consider an engineer working for the company at the time and the stand he or she would take if they subscribed to utilitarianism or duty ethics Utilitarianism can be described as an ethical theory that proposes that the action that brings good or favorable consequences to the majority is not subject to whether it is right or wrong meaning it is not subject to questioning. (Fredrick,2003) This theory was greatly championed by utilitarians such as John Stuart Mill.
This theory advocates for actions that produce happiness to the greatest or largest number of people. In an ideal situation this may be possible but usually any action can produce happiness to many or a few people depending on the action. The theory does not usually advocate for the use of ethically correct actions at all times and thus actions which may be viewed as wrong sometimes bring happiness to a large group of people but the actions still remain morally wrong. An engineer subscribing to the utilitarianism way to life would have supported the company stand and the action it took.
The company discovered that some tires were defective and did not recall the rest of the tires that had already been sold. This lead to accidents which caused suffering and death and it was not until an investigation into the cause of the accidents that finally forced the Firestone Company to admit liability and recall the tires. The company did not recall the tires because it feared the losses that it would face incase the tires were all defective. The company chose to protect their profits margins at the expense of their clients. (Little, 2003)
As an engineer with a utilitarianism view point this action would be the best because recalling would mean great losses and downsizing in terms of job which would mean unemployment for many people working at the company affecting both them and their dependants. The duty ethics proposes that the action taken in any situation should be just and honest and respectful to all persons involved. This ethical principle advances for the upholding of principles regardless to the wrong consequences whether they will be good or bad. (Graham,2004)
An engineer working for the Firestone Company would have chosen to recall all the defective tires and conducted a through investigation to the causes of the defaults without external pressure or the threat of law suits as inducement. The engineer moral compass would have guided them to make such a stand regardless to the fallout which is this case would have resulted in major losses to the company. As per the requirements of the engineering profession, this mechanical engineer was ascribed to some basic fundamental ethics and the relevant professional codes of conduct while in the jurisdiction of their duty.
These are guidelines aimed at providing safety standards for the engineers while at work and the common good of the society. However, the same was objectively inadequate in the Firestone’s case. As a basic requirement, they should exercise their professional skills and also knowledge in providing contentment in the general human life. Impartiality and honesty should prevail in their service where fidelity to the public should never be compromised above that of clients and also employers. Elsewhere, engineers should pursue a continued development in their profession and bring service to their different clients without any conflict.
These are the basic fundamentals of mechanical engineers whose proficiency is provided by the support of the canons of mechanical engineering. In conclusion the moral stand point taken by any individual should always be after requiring all the necessary information. This is because in every decision made, there are always individuals who love and those who benefit. As in the Firestone, the recalling decision would have resulted in loss. After careful evaluation one should decide on the decision that brings minimal losses in the involved activity.