Autonomy and Kantian ethics
Q. In the case of an individual who is out of work and in a dire situation regarding their ability to provide for themselves and their family, can one say that they have truly freely accepted the dangerous work conditions when they accept the position, or does it make sense to say that they have been coerced to accept those conditions due to their desperate financial position? Appeal to discussions of autonomy and Kantian ethics in defending your position.
Autonomy is defined as the ability to control oneself and the one’s deed. On the other side, Kantian ethics are based on some forms of actions even in occasions where they will lead to more contentment than a would-be substitute. Kantian ethics brings the notion that if not everyone can act as one would rationally will, then such an act should be refrained from being performed; and that if one’s actions are not according to human dignity, one should not use them for self-satisfaction.
Answer: In my opinion, I would say that the individual has freely accepted the dangerous work conditions when they accepted the position.
Freely accepting the dangerous working conditions would mean using Kantian’s hypothetical imperative so as to make the ends meet of the individual’s family. This hypothetical imperative, as noted in the Kantian’s ethics, means to be compelled conditionally so as to satisfy a particular urge. In this case, the conditions that compel the individual to accept the situation are to cater for themselves and their family.
The individual works in the dangerous working conditions (reasonably because the employer is not in one way or the other able to work there), and he is in the position to work, and the individual has a need that can be satisfied by the employer: therefore both parties are in need and it’s only the other can satisfy them. In fact, there is mutual dependence since what one cannot do, the other can do. If the individual have no conditions to satisfy, then could opt to freely ignore the situation (Anonymous, n.d). However, since there are needs that he has to settle, then there is no more option but to accept the dangerous working conditions. The individual can just accept this through one way: to grin and bear it. This would be equivalent to saying; if you feel hungry you can take food but if not, feel free to disregard the command.
Based on autonomy, according to an individual’s moral, the individual can choose to reasonably ignore the dangerous working conditions if he has a feeling they are not as per his scope of standards. An individuals worth would be determined by his actions. Therefore in the above case, the individual could choose not to work in the dangerous working conditions, regardless of the provisions to settle for themselves and family.
If the following example is relevant, the individual’s acceptance in working on the dangerous conditions would be like: an individual escaping from a lion that is treading hot on his heels and he reaches the end of the land, coming to a sea shore (Waymack, n.d). Assume he doesn’t know how to swim, and yet he jumps into the sea. He may have escaped the lion but more danger lurks ahead, but the individual soldiers on because, he will buy a chance.
According to Kant, an individual may Pursue Happiness regardless of the dire situations he subjects himself to. The individual may pursue happiness, and thus bravely works on the dangerous working conditions by knowingly ignoring the conditions.
Kant notes that they are Misjudgments in our haste to interpret situations. Thus he says that before judging, we should give adequate attention before making an ethical assessment. Thus in our case, if the individual’s family was starving or his clothes’ were tattered, that there could be a righteousness when accepting the dangerous conditions, thus, the individual work for the right reason, Ignoring The Consequences.
The individual could accept the dangerous working conditions through a Stimulus. He was in need of settling family needs and his own too, thus he could have done so by having a sense of duty.
Anonymous (n.d). Retrieved on 5th October 5, 2011 from <http://www.csus.edu/indiv/g/gaskilld/ethics/Kantian%20Ethics.htm>
Waymack M (n.d). Retrieved on 5th October 5, 2011 from <http://bioethics.lumc.edu/Files/pdf/MW_BEHP406.pdf>