All Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Year of Award



Master of Business Administration (MBA)


College of Business & Professional Studies

Degree Program



Business Administration


Kant, Ethics, Ford, Pinto, Hewlett-Packard, Bendix, Universal Law, Moral rule


The distress of corporations springs from a contradiction in views between the "public" and those who run American business. Americans tend to see companies whose purpose is to produce things needed for living. The corporation's view is that it is rewarded for its efforts by maximum profits.

It follows that if a company-s basic job is to make things that make life better, it should not, in the course of producing, make life worse. New social responsibilities to the public has shaken business foundations. The public at large is demanding that corporations devote its energies to improving the "quality of life" in addition to production of goods.

In Chapter 2, Immanuel Kant, a 19th century German ethicist, formalized a theory of duty based on "universal law." His theory states that one must act in a way toward his fellow man that he himself would want to be treated. This moral rule states categorically what ought to be done, whether it pleases us or not. Duties arise from a love of mankind only, and must not be derived from subjective inclinations or any actions with motives steeped in the expected effects. Consequences are not the determinants of moral obligation.

In Chapters 3 through 5, three cited business issues are reconciled according to Kant-a theory. The Ford Pinto case arose when three girls burned to death while riding in a subcompact auto Ford built that had a faulty gas tank. Ford argued that although they were aware of the problem, they were perfectly justified in producing the auto by using the cost-benefit analysis approved by the Federal Safety Standards Board.

In the 2nd case of ethical concern, Hewlett-Packard resolved their problem of disjointed and stodgy management and decreasing market share by revamping product lines and human resources. Their moral dilemma was resolved and brought to a satisfactory conclusion by participative management.

In the 3rd business case, William Agee, CEO, and Mary Cunningham, Executive V.P. of Allied Bendix, were released from their duties amidst cries of favoritism and sexual misconduct. Although both parties denied the allegations, company policy was clearly affected by their relationship.

In Chapter 6 my thesis on Kantian theory and corporate view of morality is reconciled. The conclusion to be drawn is that although Kant was a theorist from the 19th century, his ideas on universal law, although not frequently practiced, are still relevant and compatible in today's business world.

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