Recently, in our TOK (Theory of Knowledge) class, we came together in pairs to explore different theories and approaches to decide whether or not something is ethical. In my case, I was given the opportunity to discuss Kant’s Approach to Ethics.
In this theory, Kant suggests that in order to decide whether something is ethical or not, one must imagine that situation being applied en masse, which boils down to: “If everyone did this, would it be considered ethical?”. The reason this approach could be seen as effective is that by applying said situation in a bigger scale, it removes personal bias and special pleading, which is when someone condones an action because of an emotional connection to whoever is doing said action.
But, how can this approach be used to judge whether our project is ethical or not? Imagine the following: Many groups of students decide to nurse hundreds of mangroves and plant them. This happens all over the world, and millions of mangroves are planted pretty much all at once. What are the possible consequences of this? First off, we got advice from a marine biologist, meaning all of our decisions were made professionally. If every single group of students did so (which would be unlikely), there would still be the problem that each group is acting in a vacuum. We didn’t have other groups doing a project in the Avellanas Mangrove, but if they did, we’d probably continue anyways. If everyone did this, it could end up in a huge environmental disturbance. If you consider this being done worldwide, there cold actually be unforeseen consequences of “messing” with environmental balance so carelessly. If EVERYONE planted 800 mangroves, there would most certainly be overpopulation…
I would like to end this by stating that Kant’s Approach to Ethics, while respected, is fundamentally flawed, and has been criticised in the past. It should be always used accompanied by common sense, and with a careful look at the paragraphs above, you can see that the proposed hypothetical is absolutely ridiculous, and that this approach shouldn’t be applied generally and without care. Contradicting Kant, I can firmly say that my project, in the careful and calculated way we have been conducting it, is in fact ethical; and that’s a hill I am willing to die on.
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