The example of releasing a worm given in the text is the situation where Morris stated his goal was to see how many Internet computers he could infect with the worm.  He was not thinking about the computers he would crash and that data that would be lost.  Consider the morality of the issue of releasing a worm.  State if Morris’s release of a worm would be morally justifiable according to Kantian ethics.  Provide a discussion of Kantian ethics and fully explain your position regarding Morris’s actions.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although Morris claims he did not intend to release the worm as a malicious act, merely as a research project, the very fact that he disguised its origin by releasing it from MIT rather than his own school, Cornell, suggested that he knew that what he was doing was wrong. Although one could argue that the damage it caused was due to unintended consequences, Morris fails Kant's ethical tests in several ways.

First, the categorical imperative requires that one always universalize one's maxim. Thus Morris would have needed to consider what would have happened had every internet user released worms, and think about how the increase in traffic would disrupt the internet.

Next, Kant requires that we consider every intelligent being as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end, which would require that Morris consider the effects of his action on other people before acting, which he did not.

Final, Kant requires that we consider duty before committing an act that might have moral consequences, and Morris failed to do that.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team