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Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theories Essay

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

Ethics, Duty, and Personal Desires

Ethics are certain criteria that we use to differentiate between good and evil. There are several ideas and philosophies in regards to ethics, which differ from one another. Kant’s deontology is a popular ethical philosophy, which states that morality is a matter of duty and obligation and that people should strive to live both morally and ethically. Kant argues that ethics should not be limited to personal beliefs and desires alone. Instead, they should extend to all parts of a human’s life, which includes work and social duties (Lacewing, 2014). Kant’s ethics can be applied to our scenario – lying robs the liar of their intrinsic goodness and limits other peoples’ freedom to choose rationally.

Implications of Lying

Lying in a questionnaire in order to be accepted into law enforcement implies that the person in question is not fit to become a police officer in the first place. In order to understand this implication, let us investigate the motive for lying in this particular case. There are two main motives – to ensure enlistment into the police force and to protect a friend from having his lie discovered.

Both of these actions contradict not only Kant’s ethical criteria of morality, but they also contradict the Police Code of ethics, which is heavily influenced by Kant’s philosophy (Torres, 2017). The code takes a form of a vow which every recruit takes at the beginning of their careers. It states that an officer must be honest in both personal and official life and that an officer must never permit personal prejudices, feelings, animosities, or friendships to influence his decision-making (“Police officer code of ethics,” 2014). Lying about the drug arrest contradicts the first vow, and lying to protect a friend contradicts the second one. Thus, lying in order to become a police officer goes against the very tenets that one is sworn to protect.

Benefits of Truth

Although telling the truth in this situation promises only hardship and trouble, there are several potential gains to doing so regardless. If I tell the truth when it is clearly not in my best interest, I will reaffirm my moral integrity and the strength of my convictions. It may be deciding factor in my favor, since there is a chance the commission will appreciate my honesty, especially considering that the old charges were dropped later. Outside of retaining one’s moral integrity and the potential for a positive outcome, there is very little gain for telling the truth in this scenario.

Truth or Half-Truth?

If I were to say the truth in the questionnaire in order to preserve my moral integrity and fall in line with the Police Code and Kantian standards for morality, I would be compelled to include the information regarding my friend. If I were not to include my friend in my response, then the ending result would be a half-truth, which also violates the Police Code of Conduct. This will create a contradiction between my personal morals and duty morals (“Consistency and ethics,” 2017). Lack of contradictions is one of the most important tenets of Kantian ethics. There would be no point in telling the truth about myself in order to preserve the moral integrity, only to have it tarnished by following it with a lie about my friend. Thus, there is no middle ground here – I tell either the whole truth or none at all.

Implications of Telling the Truth, and Possible Consequences

If I were to tell the whole truth, including the part about my friend, two implications would come into place. First, my actions would imply that I am an honest person that would put vows and duty before friendship and familiarity, which falls in line with the Police Code of Ethics. Another implication is negative – it implies that I am willing to “sell out” a friend, thus breaking our friendship and his trust. Certain ethical philosophies put duties towards friends and family at the top of the pyramid, having priority over anything else (“Acting for friends and family,” 2016). However, these philosophies are not applicable to Police duties. Having friends and family take priority before justice, and the law would mean that an officer would become susceptible to corruption and nepotism. The purpose of the Police is to ensure that justice is served and laws are being obeyed (Kokemuller, 2016). It is only possible when the concepts of justice and law prevail over personal loyalties and feelings. Removing that from the equation defeats the purpose of police.

Telling the truth in this scenario promises several negative consequences. My friendship may be ruined, and my friend may lose his job when his lie is exposed. In addition, the chances of my admittance into the Police will be diminished.

Lying in this scenario would have little to no negative consequences. I will get a job, and my friend’s position will remain safe. The only price I would have to pay for it is the price of my moral integrity. However, if I compromise now, who is to say I will not do so again? I share Kant’s views on morality and integrity when it comes to police duties. Sacrificing my own integrity for the sake of benefits and comforts is a path to corruption.

References

Acting for friends and family. (2016). Web.

Consistency and ethics. (2017). Web

Kokemuller, N. (2016). Web.

Lacewing, M. (2014). Kant’s deontological ethics. Web.

Police officer code of ethics. (2014). Web.

Torres, M. (2017). . Web.

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