Perspective Of The FBI Vs. Apple Case In Virtue Ethics Theory Essay


Write a research essay describing an ethical theory (deontology, virtue or Utilitarianism) or ethical issue we have discussed in this course.Also apply the FREE MARKET ETHIC to it and to critically review it using an ETHIC OF CARE. Describe the theory and its foundations in moral and ethical philosophy. Analyze its application in the 21st century business world and global marketplace, using examples from your research. Evaluate the theory and give your opinion as to whether it is a valid method of ethical decision-making in the workplace, identifying specific ethical dilemmas you see. Explain how the theory will shape the managerial role and responsibilities in an organization and its potential effect on ethical culture.
Your goal is to make an argument and support it with a clear, original, and thorough analysis of the themes, arguments, and information presented in course readings and lectures. Your work will be evaluated by the specificity with which it answers the prompt, the clarity of its thesis, the cohesiveness of its argument, and the extent to which it demonstrates a clear understanding of the central content, critical ideas, and key themes of the course.


The Virtue Ethics Theory

The virtue ethics theory tends to focus on the individual carrying out a particular action to try, and establish whether the person is acting morally/ethically or not. While the consequences of the individual’s action and the rules governing the actions might be important to consider, the virtue ethics theory tends to de-emphasize them. More particularly, the primary factor remains whether the particular individual involved in the action has expressed a good character or not (Crisp, 2010). Good character in this case is shaped by the moral virtues that are defined by the virtue theorists.

There are different descriptions of moral virtues according to the virtue ethics theory. First, moral virtues include admirable behaviors that bring about social harmony. Secondly, the moral virtues consist of dispositions within individuals that enable them to act according to reason. Therefore, the use of logic is critical in terms of determining the inclination of one’s moral position ((Crisp, 2010). One can only be considered morally virtuous if they engage proper reasoning where in their actions, there can be proof of moderation rather than extremism. Thirdly, the virtue ethics theory emphasizes that moral virtues enable individuals to have the correct intention and to feel appropriate while carrying out various activities.

Foundations of the Virtue Ethics Theory in Moral & Ethical Philosophy

The virtue theory is well founded in the moral and ethical philosophy advanced by Aristotle and Plato. The virtue theory is deeply founded on the views of Plato and Aristotle regarding morality and good character. Despite the fact that each of the two philosophers provided his own list of moral values, all of them sum up to the contemporary explanation of the virtue ethics theory. Thus, the aspect of virtue emerged from the two Greek philosophers, came up with a collection of several normative ethical philosophies which put an emphasis on being, and not on the actions. In founding the theory, Aristotle believed that the moral values/virtues safeguards human relations including friendship and without them, an individual cannot realize happiness (Kupperman, 2009). On the other hand, Plato believed that being virtuous is a course that one must pursue to attain it.

In Plato’s ‘Republic,’ the four cardinal virtues brought out include wisdom, temperance, fortitude, and justice. Therefore, for one to be considered virtuous, they must act in line with these cardinal virtues, which of course include other related moral values. Socrates who also contributed to the discussion on virtues stipulated that there exist only one virtue-knowledge. Therefore, one needs to have to a particular knowledge that can enable them know how to act in particular situations in an ethical way. Aristotle on the other hand divided virtues into moral virtues and intellectual virtues. These moral virtues are all means of given corresponding vices while the intellectual virtues consist of an individuals’ mental skills that enable them reach for truth and thus agreeing or disagreeing with something. Thus, the virtue ethics theory embraced today in different fields can be said to have originated from the works of early Greek philosophers and later shaped by the emergence of critics, situations and the wider need for its applications.

Free Market Ethic & the Virtue Ethics Theory in the FBI vs. Apple Case

Free market involves the buying, the production, sale, and exchange of goods and services by an individual or entity without being interfered with by either a government or private institution. When every individual in the market possesses this particular freedom, then the market can be said to be free. Thus, each transaction in a free market is voluntary and based on buyer-seller agreement. People purchase goods and pay for them willingly at particular rates without being coerced and this consists of the free market ethic. The aspects of free market can be explained in relation to the virtue ethics theory. The virtue ethics theory emphasizes the need for people to embrace moral virtues including for instance justice, trust, and fortitude among others.

While critics of the free market indicate that an individual may sell unscrupulous products in order to gain mammoth profits, it is clear that as long as the buyers have accepted these products and the terms involved then there is moral equality. Supporters of the free market aspects argue that moral equality does not mainly consist of the equal right to the produced good within the economy (Friedman, 2008). Moral equality instead involves the equal right for individuals to be free from being coerced by others. Any interference in the free market is unnecessary and even wasteful to all the parties playing within the economy. Governments are not welcome to interfere with the free market but instead may just need to provide a better platform for businesses to thrive. Interfering with issues regarding agreements between sellers and buyers can be one way of breaching moral equality. Business contract that have been entered into by a seller and a buyer need to remain safeguarded and terms adhered with in the spirit of practicing moral equality.

The FBI vs. Apple case regarding a tussle where the earlier party wanted to obtain a terrorist’s iPhone information access after the Malibu attack that saw 14 people killed can be explained in the perspective of free market ethics theory. As indicated earlier, the free market ethic supports the view that there should be completely no interference in the market for all players. The government as an entity in this case, does not have the mandate to coerce the Apple Company through whatever legal means to provide software that will see the terrorist’s phone unlocked (Cuijpers, & van Schendel, 2016). The free market ethic emphasizes the agreement between the buyer-the terrorists, and the seller of the IPhone. In free market economies, as long as there is a willing buyer of goods and services and/or a willing seller of the same, then a contract is sealed and must be honored. The Apple Company has a duty in its operation to safeguard the privacy of its customers, being a willing seller (Friedman, 2008). Since the buyers of the Apple IPhones usually chose it because of ensured information privacy, the company is compelled to ensure that their information is protected.

Tim Cook the CEO of the Apple Company in fact indicated that the security features of the Apple iphone is one of the aspects that make their phones and other gadgets to sell in the current competitive technological markets. He further indicated that providing software that would unlock the IPhone risked the privacy of many other owners of similar gadgets. This is because the FBI can then use the software to gain access to private information on other Apple customers’ phones. Therefore in line with the free market ethic, the decision by the Apple company to refuse to develop the unlock software to the FBI was agreeable (Friedman, 2008). If we go by the free market ethic, then the government should completely not try to interfere with the contract entered into by the terrorist-iphone purchaser.

The government later dropped its request to have Apple company device the unlock software to the IPhone indicating that the FBI had found a third party that assisted to unlock the phone. The Israeli Cellebrite Tech Company has been linked with this assistance, a move that has made the Apple company discouraged (Cuijpers, & van Schendel, 2016). While Apple was out to protect their contract terms with the iphone purchaser as a willing buyer, it was against the free market ethic for the Cellebrite Company to interfere with this deal. The Israeli company that assisted in the unlocking of the phone becomes a third party and mainly interference in the free market assumptions.

The above conclusion on the FBI vs. Apple case when viewed under the free market ethic can be analyzed in line with the virtue ethics theory. According to Plato, a republic needed to consist of four cardinal virtues, which include wisdom, temperance, fortitude, and justice. A virtuous individuals or entity must act in line with these cardinal virtues among other moral values (Cuijpers, & van Schendel, 2016). Aristotle on the other hand stipulated that intellectual virtues are an individual’s mental skills that enable them reach for truth and thus agreeing or disagreeing with something. In the case of the FBI vs. Apple, it is clear that the major ethical issue include a conflict between security and privacy. Security and privacy are both moral values, which must prevail within a given democratic society (Cuijpers, & van Schendel, 2016). Considering natural justice as envisaged in the virtue ethics theory, it is clear that killing people is a vice. Killers are considered extremists in the society and they act beyond the mean behavior expected. Aristotle who supported the virtue ethics theory believed that a person’s actions needed to be moderated. Terrorism needs to be eliminated in order for the society to live harmoniously. In this case, the free market ethic tends to protect terrorists who led to the death of 14 people in Malibu and might probably be planning other attacks.

It becomes a dilemma when one needs to choose to protect their safety at the expense of their privacy and vice versa. In most cases that involve the need to choose between the two, many people and entities have preferred to sacrifice their privacy to security (Cuijpers, & van Schendel, 2016). This shows the use of intellectual morals that enable people to choose between wrong and right. According to Socrates, knowledge is the main virtue as it helps people and entities to know between wrong and right, which is a similar case here. The virtue ethics would agree with the government to access the terrorist’s information in order to understand first whether the owner was involved. Once this was known, there was there could be a just decision on whether to pursue the IPhone owner for charges or not. Even so, a free market theorist would argue that government interference is never welcome in such a case. This case presents a tussle between those who believe in the free market ethic and those that believe in virtue ethics (Friedman, 2008). The Apple Company takes the free market ethic as a tool to defend itself while the government through the FBI and the courts tends to consider the virtue ethics their ultimate tool.

Virtue theory & the Ethic of Care in FBI vs. Apple Case

The ethic of care theory as advanced by Carol Gilligan can be used to explain the case between the FBI vs. Apple Company. The ethic of care theory stresses that everyone needs to have a voice to be listened to not only carefully but also with respect (McPherson 2012). It also emphasizes the natural human relationships and interdependence indicating that individuals need each other whatsoever. The theory calls upon individuals to be responsive in their relationships with each other by paying attention, responding and carefully listening to others. It also indicates that people should be aware of the probability of losing connection with others or even with oneself in case there is no proper/ethical care (Engster, 2013). While the virtue ethics theory focuses on moral virtues, the care ethics emphasizes that morality originates from human relationships and bring about issues related to injustice and carelessness.

There are differences between the two theories. The virtue ethics embraces the need for justice for all unlike the ethics of care that tends to consider a need-centered approach. In the case of the FBI vs. Apple, the company considers its relationship with its customers to be crucial and one that needs safeguarding. While it does not support terrorism, the Apple Company would not only like to protect its client’s information on the IPhone acquired by the FBI, but also wants to do so, for millions of its loyal customers. The company feels compassionate and caring to its customers but this view contravenes the virtue ethics. The security of the masses should be considered more imperative than the privacy of an individual and/or a group. Considering this, the ethic of care should not have been considered in this case but instead, the Apple Company should have looked for software that only unlocks the terrorist’s IPhone. This encryption unlock software should be made in a way that it still could not be used by the FBI to reach for any other phone purchased by innocent civilians. This could be a just move, as it will end up tracking down terrorist activity while at the same time maintaining the safety and privacy of the IPhone buyers. Thus, there was no need for the Apple company to seem to be compassionate and to show a feeling of care for individuals who led to the death of 14 people in Malibu.

Applications of the Virtue Theory in the 21st Century Business World

The moral virtues outlined under the virtue ethics theory are today applied in the business world. For these virtues to be applied successfully to any business, the particular business and activities carried out must be considered as a practice (Wittmer & O’Brien, 2014). First, the virtue ethics theory today is also used in developing professional codes of ethics for different institutions. Every profession in the business world must have a code of ethics to follow. As a result, legal institutions including courts are entitled to use the codes of ethics where they are faced with cases involving unethical practices (Wittmer & O’Brien, 2014). Both local and international laws on professional ethics are developed and agreed upon by all related entities. In fact, Constitutional Acts can define the code of ethics for a given profession and thus making it legally binding for not only businesses but also for the employees working within the relevant establishments.

Further, virtue ethics theory is used in labour relations and movements being entities that are normally affected by any interference with employee rights. These rights in one way can be considered as safeguards to moral rights as long as they provide justice to both the employees and the employers. While virtue ethics theory calls upon the employees to act morally, the employers are also put to task to ensure that they do not bring unnecessary barriers in the event that employees are seeking for justice (Moore, 2012). In terms of offering goods into the market, virtue ethics have been relied upon in deciding that there is need to offer quality goods and services. Fraudulent deals in the market where sellers defraud buyers and vice versa are discouraged under moral standings. Today, the business and contract laws that govern mutual agreements among different parties embrace the aspect virtue ethics in expecting utmost good faith among these parties. Industries that are allowed to exist within a given surrounding are required to ethically oblige to conserving the environment and providing some crucial services to the communities within (Moore, 2012). Therefore, the virtue of ethics theory is a crucial element in the 21st Century business world, used in solving several ethical dilemmas that emerge within the business environment repeatedly.

Evaluation and Validation

The virtue ethics theory is a valid approach in ethical decision-making in any given workplace. This is because it provides the values that need to be embraced within a workplace and defines the professional behavior that people should assume. In the workplace, moral virtues do not only bring about harmony among the workers but also a peaceful relationship between them and their employers (Blumenthal-Barby, 2015). Shareholders, customers, suppliers and even the government rely heavily on the set of business ethics within and beyond a business premises. This is because once these moral virtues are practiced by every party, there is a high likelihood that there will be less harm in transactions and instead business deals will be legitimate (McPherson, 2012). The virtue ethics theory is thus a valid theory as it moral equality prevents corruption and ensures that everything is carried out under the law of natural justice (Blumenthal-Barby, 2015. Its emphasis on prudence, fortitude, and justice among other intellectual moral virtues make this theory a valid alternative to deontology and utilitarianism.

Ways in which Virtue Ethics Shape Managerial Roles & Responsibilities

Virtue ethics shape one’s managerial roles and responsibilities in different ways. First, virtue ethics envisaged in a company/industrial code of ethics oblige managers to carry out their duties in ethical manners. Having been considered trustees within the institution, the managers may need to avoid corruption in their offices, treat their workers fairly and professionally, and conduct themselves morally (West, 2016). Therefore, virtue ethics provides a path to follow for a manager who wants to be successful in their work.

Secondly, compliance to company and industrial regulations is an ethical requirement. Managers who for instance evade paying taxes can be termed as unethical. Therefore, managers are responsible for ensuring that their companies comply to both internal and external regulations that safeguard well being of for instance, the environment, the worker and the citizens of a given state at large(Bertland, 2008). Tax evasion, illegal release of untreated wastes to a water source for example, is termed unethical practices. Therefore, the virtue ethics compel a manager to ensure that their firms do not practice such behaviors.

Further, it is up to the managers to be accountable for every activity carried out by their firm. They are thus responsible for any mistakes that might occur because of their businesses. Similarly, they are responsible for any positive result posted by the firm in terms of ethics (Fairchild, 2010). The virtue ethics does not only shape individual behavior but also shapes decision-making. Contingency plans that are put up by managers must also still consider the ethical code of conduct. Therefore, there is no doubt that the virtue ethics immensely influences any managers’ way of handling duties and responsibilities.

The Effect of the Virtue Ethics Theory on Ethical Culture

Ethical culture aims at encouraging individuals and groups to respect nature and others as humans in order to develop a better world. Virtue ethics advocate for admirable behaviors that bring about social harmony (Erll et al, 2008). These moral virtues make people act according to reason. In line with the virtue ethics theory, morally virtuous individuals engage proper reasoning and their actions are moderated rather than done with extremism (Ciurria, 2011). This should have been the case for the Apple management, knowing well that terrorism is a threat harmonious co-existence. The virtue ethics theory also emphasizes that moral virtues enable individuals to have the correct intention and to feel appropriate while carrying out various activities. Good intentions towards others cultivate respect for humanity and advocates for peace, unity, and collaboration.

In conclusion, therefore the virtue ethics theory can be said to advocate for moral virtues, which involve behaviors that are moderated and thus are oriented towards the mean but not extremes. The above discussion brings out the different applications of this theory in the contemporary business world including in the FBI vs. Apple case. It can thus be concluded that the virtue ethics theory remains one of the normative philosophies to be advanced by psychologists and philosophers.


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