Moral Principles As An Individual’s Duty To Do The Right Thing

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Contents
  3. Discussion
  4. Recommendations
  5. Conclusion


Moral principles break into two words, “moral” and “principles”. Principles are rules that are so well established that are essentially laws. The word “moral” concerns with the right or wrong of a behavior. Moral principles define as the principles of right and wrong which an person or a social group practices. A famous philosopher Immanuel Kant (1964) expressed the concept of morality as an individual’s duty to do the right thing. Moral principles cannot provide us the exact answers whether it is right or wrong, but it does guide our actions. Everyone has their own moral principles and value, but they can differ greatly from one and another. The fact is that no single moral principles that accepted by everyone. Some examples of moral principles are honesty, kindness, respect. Moral principles are person-specific which mean an individual’s principles regarding right and wrong.

Ethics is about what is right for people and society, which refers to laws given by an external source such as the social structure. Although ethics and moral are sometimes interchangeably, but they are different. While moral principles rely on individual judgement, it often results in some ethical problems. This happens when a person act based on his or her moral principles does not bring consider the well-being of others.

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One common issue with moral principles is that it cannot solve some problems and people call it moral dilemmas. One famous example to demonstrate moral dilemmas is the Trolley and Footbridge dilemmas. The first case in which a runway trolley travelling down the tracks straight towards five workers, you are standing next to a switch that will shift the trolley onto the other track with one worker. You have to sacrifice one in order to save those five. Second case is where you are standing on a bridge over the track and there is a man standing next to you. You may push him over and his body will stop the oncoming trolley, saving the five workers and the man will die. Based on moral principles, it cannot guide us towards which action is morally right or wrong to save the five guys.

For instance, in our society, you are morally to feed a stray dog. However, problem may arise if you feed them which encourage them to produce more litters of puppies and cause societal problem. So, an action is morally right does not mean it is ethical.


As moral principles fail to provide reasons in explaining about right or wrong of doing something, argument arise if moral facts and duties really exist. According to MacKinnon and Meynell (1972), Is something good because God says it is good? or Does God say it is good because it is good? the first question form dilemma where if God say it is good, then what is the prove of existence of God? The second dilemma form if God say it is good, then who is the one higher than god? According to Lamont (1930), he presented in his paper with the summarize of argument for the existence of God by Martineau that “The fact of moral duty or obligation implies a moral law presenting the obligation”. This means that moral must have its legislator and this legislator cannot be a human. Since, no one can prove the existence of God, so who even able to prove where moral comes from?

Teleological ethics concerned with the consequences of an action. This means whether an action is morally right or wrong is depends on the result. Teleology moral philosophy further branch into two categories. The first one is ethical egoism which belief that every individual ought to act in a way to promote himself of herself if the result will generate, on balance rather than negative result. According to McConnell (1978), ethical egoism defines that a person’s duty is to promote his or her own best interest. The next branch is utilitarianism. According to Eggleston (2012), utilitarianism is an ethical theory whether an action is right or wrong is depends entirely on the maximization of overall well-being. So, there is a pitfall for utilitarianism, how good is consider good? and Not everyone gains the benefits they deserve.

The next moral philosophy perspective is deontology. Deontological the rightness or wrongness of an action is solely based on whether the action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules. Deontology thought that moral principles are ascertained through some sort of logical test consistency. Deontologist believes that is the action is right, the consequences definitely will be right. Deontology focus on the important of right rather than good. Right is the matter of logical and rational.

The relativist perspective defines that ethical behaviour is subjectively from experience and there is no universal or absolute set of moral principles. Descriptive relativism says that moral standard is culturally defined. Metaethical moral relativism states that there are no objective grounds for preferring the moral values of one culture over another. Therefore, moral relativist belief the right moral value exists in their own culture. Normative relativism everyone has a good opinion as others. Therefore, normative relativist suggest that society should accept each other’s differing moral values because there are no universal moral principles.

Another moral philosophy perspective is virtue ethics which is the oldest tradition in ethics. Virtue ethics defined as the quality of moral excellent, righteousness, and responsibility. Virtue ethics approach summarize as four views. First is corporate ethics encourage individual virtue and integrity. The second is those virtues which are synonymous with a good person's proper behavior. Third is the purpose of virtue ethics is to concern with well-being of community. The last is at the same time of concerning well-being of community, the individual excellent also to be pursuit.


There are cases where it is morally right but ethically wrong. Ethical problem in organization often has to do with the obligations a company has to its stakeholders. According to Christopher, Stirling, and Nielsen (2007) mentioned that pressure to achieve an effective result, productivity, the global competition had resulted in ethical violation and publicized fraud. In most organization, leaders and top management tend to focus on organizational development by improving task effectiveness and efficiency.

As mentioned by Hooker (2008), cultural differences tend to differ a person perception towards and act. According to Napal (2001), officials may expect bribes as a motivation for them to carry out normal activities and has becoming part of Mauritian culture. However, this seems to be morally right on moral relativism perspective as ethical behaviour subjectively from the culture. Bribery has become something necessary in Mauritius to improve organizational performance. But in other part of the world, bribery is an unethical behaviour. According to Pavlović, Mladić and Buzar (2016), corruption and bribery is unethical behaviour in business and even prohibited by laws.

Moreover, taking an example of corruption in international business where a manager has to bribe in order to close deals in foreign country. In this case, bribery in the domestic country is prohibited but it is a culture in that foreign country. Based on deontological perspective, it is unethical for the manager to pay or receive bribe. However, on the utilitarianism perspective, things might not as simple as how we look. If the manager pay bribe in order to close the deal which might eventually avoid the company going into bankruptcy. If the company declare bankruptcy, which might cause lost of jobs, income, poverty or even worse consequences. So, based on utilitarianism perspective, it is right for the manager to pay bribe in order to maximize the consequences of overall well-being.

Sometimes, organization act unethically in order to get things done or in other words, improve company performance, even manager know it is unethical to do so. However, according to Sahakyan and Stiegert (2012), empirical research found evidence that corruption is detrimental to company. In fact, there are lots of bad consequences company might face if they get discovered. This including breaking of laws and regulation. According to Zhu and Fu (2012), for instance, the case of Siemens AG pay bribe to Argentina government officials to retain contract to produce national identity cards for Argentina citizens.


Most business manager do not hold strong moral philosophies, and thus, they cannot explain the exact the moral philosophy they apply. To solve ethical problem in organizations, management should develop strict ethical standards for their employees. Every organizations have different norm and culture, thus, the ethical standard which must be best fit to the company context. According to Cullen, Victor, and Stephens (1989), there are three factors to determine the ethical climate which include environment, organization form, and organizational history.

To solve a problem, we should dig into the root of the problem. The best way to overcome unethical behaviour in organization is the corporate culture and rewards for meeting performance goals. It is important to promote ethical norms within organization by develop an ethical code of conduct for all level of employees. There are many principles and qualities under the code of conduct such as responsible, integrity, honest, respect, fairness, transparency, accountability, diligence and so on. So, it outlining standards and all employees are obligated to follow. If any employee found to disobey under the code of conduct will be punished. It is also important for manager to provide training to employee regarding the details in ethical code of conduct. This is an important way to create an ethical organizational culture. According to Scholl (2016), rewards are a motivating source to encourage employees behave ethically. Forms of reward can be in term of pay, promotions, bonuses and other benefits.

Furthermore, it is also important to equip employees with necessary skills that help them better understand and to resolve ethical dilemmas and help them make the right decision. Sometime, ethical dilemma occurs when an employee is to choose from two option. The point is, neither option is ethically acceptable. It even happens in a situation where employee don not even realize that their action is unethical. For instance, utilizing knowledge for own profit.

Moreover, reevaluate and revise as needed. Situations and needs are set to change. Managers need to know what works and what is not, what are the new flaws have arisen, and what progress have made. As time passed by, things might change. Thus, it is important to constantly updating the organization’s ethical culture and also revise on ethical code of conduct.


To be clear, there are several arguments about various moral philosophy perspective. In short, there are some ethical problem to society which include the ruin of well-being of the community and affect the interest of others. As most people do not embrace extreme philosophy, individual decision making often deal with ethical problem like ethical dilemmas. Organization is also no exception, ethical problems tend to arise in organization because no matter how perfect an organization is, there is still probabilities of mistake.

As far as the existence of moral realities is concerned, there are generous disputes in favor of moral principles as to whether an action is right or wrong regardless of people and societies' beliefs. However, whether an individual respects a moral concept to others is the concern. The truth is that a moral principle strongly regarded by an individual can be contrasted with others. But the bottom line is that there are general right and wrong to the degree perceived in its culture.

The lesson we learn from this study is the importance of moral principles to individual, organization and society. Could we imagine if the world is without moral principles? What will it be like? Would people live in a peaceful and harmonious environment? Clear enough, morality is important in every human being. People need moral principles as guidance in life. Moral principles can guide a person to make a rational decision. Ethical problems can never rest as our world is in developing. When some issues were out of date, surely, new issues will arise as the central for debate. As far as argument pertaining to moral and ethical issues, it is an opportunity to ascending human reasoning capabilities.

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Moral Principles As An Individual’s Duty To Do The Right Thing. (2021, August 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from
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