Jane is an accountant at Acme Corp. They have 50 employees for work in the same building. Jane knows all the employees on a first name basis. Jane's daughter is a Girl Scout. During the yearly...

Jane is an accountant at Acme Corp. They have 50 employees for work in the same building. Jane knows all the employees on a first name basis. Jane's daughter is a Girl Scout. During the yearly cookie sale Jane sent out an email to the other Acme employees, inviting them to stop by her desk during a break to place an order. There is no company policy prohibiting the use of email for personal use. 9 of the recipients were happy to get Jane's email and they ordered an average of 4 boxes of cookies. The other 40 did not like having to take time to read and delete the email.

Create a Kantian and Act Utilitarian evaluation where we conclude Jane did something wrong..

Please help me and give me your opinion about this.



- means Able to go beyond saying what is wrong or right, but being able to explain why it is right or wrong.
-is rational.
-produces universal moral guidelines.
-all persons are treated as moral equals.

Act Utilitarianism

-means an action is good if it benefits someone, an action is bad if it harms someone.
-Focuses on happiness
-It is down to earth
-It is comprehensive.

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to denounce Jane’s act from a Kantian point of view, we must first understand Kantian ethics a little more thoroughly than we can from the brief description you provide.  One of the “universal moral guidelines” that Kant offers is the categorical imperative.  In one of the maxims of the categorical imperative, Kant says that we must “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”  In other words, we must base our actions on rules that we could live with if they were made into universal laws.  We can argue that Jane does not do this (though we could also argue that her action is acceptable).

In order to say Jane has done the wrong thing, we must say that she has based her action on a bad rule.  In this case, we can say that she has decided that it is okay for her to inconvenience others (by making them read and delete unwanted emails) for her own gain.  She is basing her action on a rule that goes something like “I may cause minor inconveniences to other people as long as it will be of benefit to me.”  We can argue that Jane would not want to live in a world in which this was a universal law.  She would hate to be constantly inconvenienced for the benefit of others.  Therefore, she is not willing to make her rule into a universal law and she should not base any actions on that rule.

Act utilitarianism is a completely different ethical system.  In act utilitarianism, an act is good if it, on balance, brings more good or happiness into the world.  In this system, we look at the results of the act, not at the rule on which it was based.  Therefore, we have to calculate how much happiness was created by Jane’s act.

In this case, we can argue that Jane’s act reduced the overall happiness of the people in her office.  We can say that her action made 9 people happy, assuming that everyone who ordered really wanted the cookies.  On the other hand, the action made 40 people unhappy.  If we want to say that Jane’s action was incorrect, we can say that the unhappiness of the 40 people outweighed the happiness of the 9.  We would have to say that the hassle of reading and deleting the email was greater than the happiness experienced by the 9 people who got the cookies.

Thus, we can denounce Jane’s action from the point of view of both Kantian ethics and act utilitarianism.  We must be aware, however, that we could make the opposite argument by changing some of our assumptions.