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Jeremy Bentham's Definition of Ethics: Analytical Essay

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Gurjinder Singh Bhamra 1710160 CARC5003

In this piece of writing, I will be analyzing and commenting on the Al Wakrah Stadium and the controversy that surrounded it.

The stadium (4) was designed for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar which can seat 40,000 people. With the design of this stadium, they had planned to decrease the seating in the stadium down to 20,000 figures after the world cup and will be the home of the Qatari Sports Club. Throughout the project, the key players in this project were Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Jim Heverin, Johannes Hoffmann, Al Wakrah Sports Club, and Schlaich Bergermann Partner.

The client had asked that the design of the stadium reflects the heritage of its location. This was achieved by the traditional boat of the region. The design reflects this in an abstract manner and combines them with a practical response to the climate, context, and functional requirements of a football stadium. The stadium is situated ten miles south of Doha, a coastal city. The superstructure was Co-Designed by AECOM (formerly known as AECOM Technology Corporation), an American multinational engineering firm. It has a fully retractable roof to cool players and spectators allowing the structure to be used all season round. The design is an abstract form of the hull of dhows turned upside down and grouped to provide shade and shelter, this is shown in the envelope geometry, details, ad selected materiality, including the roof’s beam structure that echoes the interior structure of a dhow. It is quite a special engineering marvel because it’s a flowing design that can combat the extreme Qatari heat.

After the world cup, the stadium will have its seating reduced to 20,000 and will become the permanent home of Al Wakrah Sports Club (4). The cooling system is powered by solar harvesting as this collects energy from the sun and converts it to an electrical output which can then be utilized for the cooling. Passive design principles along with computer modeling and wind tunnel tests were used to maximize the effectiveness of the stadium enclosure to ensure player and spectator comfort.

According to Hadid, the shape of the stadium was inspired by the local fishing boats in this coastal area as an homage to one of the key aspects of the area, the dhows. However, due to the nature of the design, Hadid was criticized as many people compared the visualizations to female genitalia to which Hadid responded with a statement saying ‘It’s embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this. What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That’s ridiculous (2).’

Given the nature of this style of controversy, it can be a delicate matter to handle and if handled incorrectly it could severely damage careers on either side of the controversy; the subject/s or the author of the article.

Hadid was also involved in another controversy regarding the Al Wakrah stadium project. This entailed a writer from New York Books publishing a statement (1) about the controversy and how Hadid should be responsible for the thousands of migrant worker deaths in the construction of her project. Construction didn’t start until after she was questioned in London in 2014 about the hundreds of migrant worker deaths in The Guardian.

In the story that the BBC covers on this (3), they have mentioned that the 1,200 migrant worker deaths that had been tied to the stadium weren’t entirely correct as this figure overlooked key determining factors to arrive at this conclusion. One of the main points was that ‘…these workers aren’t all building World Cup facilities, however. Most of them aren’t. A lot of them are construction workers building – well, pretty much anything that needs to be built around Qatar…Another factor that needs to be taken into account is that, according to one estimate, a third of migrant workers in Qatar don’t even work in construction. The ITUC (5), though, is counting the deaths of workers in any line of work and from any cause, including road accidents and heart attacks.’

However another source (6) mentions that there were 11 deaths in total while the stadium was under construction, one of whom was Zac Cox, a Briton whose coroner’s report was held back by the stadium’s contractors.

It was said that quite simply, the reason for Cox’s death was very similar to Tej, one of the other workers that had died, being asked to use equipment that wasn’t rated for the work they had to carry out.

An Author for the New York Books (1) however had written that Hadid had thousands of worker deaths to be responsible for as they had occurred on her construction site

The false nature of the statement led to Hadid taking legal action against this company who had released an apology letter.

The following apology letter had corrected itself saying that ‘There have been no worker deaths on the Al Wakrah project’ and that ‘…work did not begin on the site for the Al Wakrah stadium until two months after Ms. Hadid made those comments…’; this is in relation to when she was asked in London in February 2014 about revelations a week earlier in The Guardian that hundreds of migrant laborers had died while working on construction projects in Qatar.

Chapter 2

Due to the nature of this controversy, the theory of ethics comes into play. Ethics, by definition, is a system of beliefs that controls but this can be delved into deeper allowing the investigation of the moral theories of ethics.

‘Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.’

Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) was the father of utilitarianism which is a moral theory that argues actions should be judged right or wrong based on if they increase or decrease human wellbeing or ‘Utility’. Simply put, if the consequences of the action are good then the action is moral, however, should the consequences of the action be bad then it is seen as immoral.

As the basis of Bentham’s moral theory, utilitarianism, it had started as a theory with the good intention behind it, but due to the methodology of thinking in his era, Bentham was criticized for his theory, mainly due to his emphasis on ‘pleasure’. Due to this emphasis, the public had concluded that the theory Bentham was hedonistic which led to his theory being known as Hedonic Utilitarianism.

Through architectural writing, a status of moral and ethical superiority is often shown to draw attention to a variety of points often linking philosophical thoughts with design implementation.

Consequentialism theorizes whether an act is moral or immoral based on the results of that act and how valuable the results of that act would be. In some regards this can be considered be bring about a positive atmosphere as this moral system of belief can allow people to believe to make decisions to live to maximize good consequences. Due to the wide scope of this, there are subtopics to further define consequentialism, utilitarianism, and hedonism.

‘Man has a variety of internal senses, including a sense of beauty, of morality, of honor, and of the ridiculous.’ Francis Hutcheson was the son of a Presbyterian minister, in 1719, Hutcheson was licensed as a preacher and ten years later he had returned to Glasgow as a professor in moral philosophy.

Hutcheson’s ethical theory was put forward in different publications; An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1728) and System of Moral Philosophy, 2 vol. (1755).

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In Hutcheson’s view, man has a variety of internal senses which included a sense of beauty, morality, honor, and the ridiculous. From there, he believed that morality was the most important. The belief was that it is implanted within the mind of man and in turn endorses those who are virtuous and rejects those who are vicious whether the action promotes the general welfare of man.

Jeremy Till is a British architect, educator, and writer; his book Architecture Depends 2009 explores different sub-genres within architecture and going as far to start talking about phony ethics.

  • ‘We are aspiring to a new ethic. We are looking for a new aesthetic.’ -Le Corbusier
  • ‘In a long life, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that the creation and love of beauty not only enrich man with a great measure of happiness but also bring forth ethical powers.’ -Walter Gropius
  • ‘The mass production house, healthy (and morally so) and beautiful in the same way that the working tools and instruments which accompany our existence are beautiful.’ -Le Corbusier
  • ‘To us, clarity means the definite expression of the purpose of a building and the sincere expression of its structure. One can regard this sincerity as a sort of moral duty.’ -Marcel Breuer

J. Till clarified the message that was being brought forward from these people; good aesthetics can lead to good ethics however he also mentions that the context of the quotes being used to support this information does not make the point any more truthful due to the fact that these quotes can be tailored to suit the ideals the one may be proposing. Till’s perspective on this matter is quite self-evident and one can observe why he was speaking in the manner that he was writing; Till was displeased because of the hypocrisy of specific architects as they had claimed to be designing for better ethics when in reality it was the opposite, they were designed for better aesthetics whilst claiming they were designed for a better ethos.

Deontological theories base their definition of what is moral or immoral based on the action itself that has taken place instead of the consequence of said action; often referred to as duty ethics or rule-based ethics.

The term ‘deontological’ was first used to describe the current, specialized definition by C. D. Broad in his 1930 book, Five Types of Ethical Theory. The older usage of the term goes back to Jeremy Bentham, who coined it before 1816 as a synonym of Dicastic or Censorial Ethics.

Immanuel Kant was one such philosopher as his theory of ethics is considered deontological because Kant argues that to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty and it is not the consequences of the action that make it moral or immoral, but the motives of the person that carries out the action. Kant’s argument for one to act morally, one must act from duty begins with the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification. An act being good in itself means an act is intrinsically good and an act that is good without qualification is the addition of the act never makes the situation ethically worse, this is where it separates from utilitarianism because some situations may result in a poorer ethical choice despite the consequence being for the best of for whoever commits the act.

The central philosophical concept, in the deontological moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, is introduced in Kant’s 1785 Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, which puts forwards Kant’s three significant formulations of the theory

Act only according to that principle by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.

Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.

Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in a universal kingdom of ends.

This, in turn, led to Kant arguing that the only aspect that is absolutely good is a good intention so should an action bring about a positive outcome; actions that have a negative intention but may have a positive consequence would still be considered immoral, likewise, if bad consequences came about as a result of an action that had a good intent behind it, the action wouldn’t be considered as immoral as the act was done in goodwill.

Chapter 3

As mentioned in Chapter 1, a controversy such as the one that surrounded Al Wakrah stadium is a delicate matter as ultimately it draws the question of where should the line be drawn when it comes to ‘ethics’.

There are different perspectives that can be scrutinized for the ethical stance behind each point. This becomes an ethical dilemma not only for the person reporting on the topic at hand but for all the key figures involved; what may be beneficial for one party may not be beneficial for another.

There had been wide coverage of this news article mainly due to the deaths that had occurred during the development of the project when it comes to topics such as this, there is a chance that at least one news outlet would blow the story out of proportion. In this instance, it was said that the critic Martin Filler of the New York Review of Books had implied that Hadid did not care about the migrant worker deaths which led to a lawsuit being filed against the outlet due to defamation. Applying Jeremy Bentham’s definition of ethics to this case points to two factors; was Filler ethically justified to report about Hadid in the manner that he had, in which he said Hadid ‘unashamedly disavowed any responsibility, let alone concern’ for an ‘estimated one thousand laborers who have perished while building the Al Wakrah stadium she designed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The other point that comes up then questions Hadid’s response to Filler.

Though there may have been no worker deaths when Filler had made these claims, there had been migrant worker deaths during the construction of the stadium, and even the death of a Briton, Zac Cox, occurred due to the same circumstances of poor working conditions of the project which was the same reason a worker before Cox had died as well; is Hadid ethically justified with her involvement in the project, should she have fact-checked what was happening in the project to ensure the development was happening as smoothly and as safely as possible and should have there been more transparency between the designers and the contractors to try to reduce the possibilities of fatalities.

The one message that was widespread amongst big-name architects was that good aesthetics mean that there was a good ethos behind the project. From the sources that I had read, Jeremy Till was the author who had shed light on the hypocrisy as the good aesthetics didn’t necessarily have a good ethos behind the design, this would also then imply that bad aesthetics had a bad ethos behind the project.

Taking this into the context of the Al Wakrah Stadium means that just because the project has a good aesthetic means that there was a good ethos behind it. This then completely shifts the ethical balance into having good ethics when this wasn’t entirely the case.

Arguing with the ‘good aesthetics equal good ethics’ statement stems down to questioning specific acts that had occurred throughout the project. This allows one to realize that this thought process of applying this statement is unreasonable because this then defaults to actions such as a coroner’s report being withheld from the deceased or slandering the worker deaths that occurred as being part of a good ethos which is wrong to do.

Despite being eventually known as hedonic utilitarianism, I believe that Jeremy Bentham had a clearer theory of ethics than followers of the ‘good aesthetics equal good ethics’ ideal as Bentham’s theory was based on the result of the action being made; if the action was to increase the wellbeing of the human then it would be considered as moral and if it decreased the wellbeing then the action would be considered immoral. This leads to fairer consequences of actions.

Francis Hutcheson had a similar theory however expanded more about the senses humans had yet morality was the most important sense which would be affected by the consequences of the actions of the person.

The deontological ethos leads to a more open-minded discussion of the events that had unfolded during the development of the Al Wakrah stadium which reveals that the project wasn’t entirely moral or immoral but had aspects of both. However, unlike consequentialism, the theory seems to be a fairer stance as an ethical theory in comparison. This is mainly due to what is being judged as being moral or immoral as previously discusses.

Bibliography

  1. (2019) Al Wakrah Stadium death could have been avoided. At: https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/al-wakrah-stadium-death-could-have-been-avoided/ (Accessed on 28 October 2019)
  2. Filler, M. (2020) The Insolence of Architecture. At: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/06/05/insolence-architecture/ (Accessed on 23 October 2019)
  3. Fairs, M. (2015) Zaha Hadid dismisses claims that the stadium resembles a vagina. At: https://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/24/zaha-hadid-dismisses-vagina-stadium-jibes-as-ridiculous/ (Accessed on 27 October 2019)
  4. Burrow, S. (2014) The Case Against Qatar. [ebook] Web: Sharan Burrow. p.Chapter 3. At: https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/the_case_against_qatar_en_web170314.pdf (Accessed on 23 October 2019)
  5. Groves, S. (2019) As Qatar Readies for the 2022 World Cup, Migrant Workers Continue to Die. At: https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28265/ahead-of-the-2022-world-cup-in-qatar-migrant-workers-continue-to-die (Accessed on 29 October 2019)
  6. Kurdistan24 (2018) Another worker dies while working on Qatar 2022 World Cup venue. At: https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/sport/c9b92501-1666-40b1-b980-86a61cb33360 (Accessed on 28 October 2019)
  7. Nepali worker dies building Qatar World Cup stadium. At: https://thearabweekly.com/nepali-worker-dies-building-qatar-world-cup-stadium (Accessed on 28 October 2019)
  8. (2015) Have 1,200 World Cup workers really died in Qatar?. At: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33019838 (Accessed on 28 October 2019)
  9. Wainwright, O. (2013) Zaha Hadid’s sport stadiums: ‘Too big, too expensive, too much like a vagina’. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/28/zaha-hadid-stadiums-vagina (Accessed on 27 October 2019)
  10. Zaha Hadid Architects. At: https://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/al-wakrah-stadium/ (Accessed on 27 October 2019)
  11. Ravenscroft, T. (2020) Al Wakrah Stadium built by Zaha Hadid Architects for World Cup in Qatar. At: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/05/16/zaha-hadid-al-wakrah-stadium-world-cup-2022-qatar-complete/ (Accessed on 23 January 2019)

Reference List

  1. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/06/05/insolence-architecture/ [Accessed 23 Oct]
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/28/zaha-hadid-stadiums-vagina (Accessed 27 Oct 2019)
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33019838 [Accessed 28 Oct]
  4. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/05/16/zaha-hadid-al-wakrah-stadium-world-cup-2022-qatar-complete/ [Accessed 28 Oct)
  5. https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/the_case_against_qatar_en_web170314.pdf [Accessed on 23 October 2019]
  6. https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/al-wakrah-stadium-death-could-have-been-avoided/

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