- May 7, 2020
Ethical and Moral Reasoning
Ethicaland Moral Reasoning
Ethicaland Moral Reasoning
Shouldthe purported victims of sexual harassment be punished for falselyaccusing the accused? When an individual is accused of sexualharassment, his perception changes irrespective of whether he/ she isguilty or not. Despite the fact that not all cases of sexualharassment are false, the probability that such an accusation is nottrue is on the rise. As such, majority of the innocent accused sexualharassers have to put up with humiliation and embarrassment, and inthe end, it is discovered that they were innocent. While this is thesupporting reason, the critics are of the opinion that victims shouldnot be punished for falsely accusing individuals for sexualharassment because, at the time of accusation, they are most likelythan not, traumatized. My position is that they should be punished asa compensation to the falsely accused for the humiliation andembarrassment. The overall aim of this paper is to provide anexplanation of the moral reasoning behind this position based ondeontology and utilitarianism. An objection and response to theobjection follows after the explanation and demonstration of moralreasoning.
Explanationand Demonstration of Moral Reasoning
Itgoes without saying that the people’s perception of the accusedsexual harasser is almost similar (if not similar) to theirperception of a guilty person. The traditional perception is erasedon the minds of the people, and the accused is viewed differently.Irrespective of whether they are guilty or not, this perception ishumiliating and embarrassing. The humiliation and embarrassment ismorally appropriate if the accused sexual harasser is, indeed,guilty. If he/ she is not guilty (false accusations have risen with asignificant amount), the situation worsens. The falsely accusedsexual harasser is traumatized, and people’s good perception onhim/ her is never reinstated. As such, a falsely accused personsuffers humiliation, embarrassment, and trauma innocently. It is,therefore, morally right to punish the false accuser and compensatethe innocently accused as supported by the utilitarianism andKantianism (a deontological theory) (Mulgan, 2014).
Utilitarianismis a teleological theory that defines an action as good or bad basedon the consequences of that particular action. In teleologicaltheories, the best action is the one that produces the most desirableconsequences. The motive is not as important as the consequences ofthe actions. Utilitarianism, in particular, emphasizes on promotingthe greatest good (Chakrabarty & Bass, 2015). The consequences ofa particular action should be considered for all parties and theactions that promotes the greatest good (in consideration to allparties as opposed to one) should be adopted. In this case,therefore, the benefits and the false harm accusation of sexualharassment should be analyzed and the decision that maximizesgoodness should be adopted.
Amongthe main harms caused by false accusation include defamation of thefalsely accused. Defamation is a civil wrong in itself it is a tort.The reputation of the falsely accused is destroyed, and even afterthe confirmation that the accusations were not true, it will not bereinstated to the original position. In addition to defamation, theaccused also suffers from humiliation and embarrassment as pointedout earlier. Evidently, false accusation does not benefit the falselyaccused sexual harasser in any way. The only benefit of falseaccusation to the victim is that it helps to reduce the trauma thatcomes along with sexual harassment. From a psychological point ofview, the victim’s emotional and mental pain is reduced if theymake someone else to suffer irrespective of whether the person whosuffers is guilty or not. This is evidenced by the fact that mostvictims do not file a case against another person if the first personis confirmed to be innocent. This is because the pain is reduced.Therefore, going by the utilitarianism theory, punishing the falseaccuser promotes the greatest good because failing to do so is unfairto the falsely accused. For the greatest good to be attained. Thevictim should compensate the falsely accused individual.
Kantianism,on the other hand, is a deontological theory that defines thegoodness or badness of a particular action based on universal moralduties and principles. Ideally, unlike the teleological theories thatare based on the consequences, deontological theories are based onduties (fundamental moral principles). As such, the motive of theaction plays a major role in determining whether the action isappropriate or not. The morally right actions are those whose motiveis guided by moral duties and principles (Thames, 2013). Morallywrong actions are otherwise. Kantianism, in particular, is based onthe belief that people should be treated with respect and as endsthemselves and not as means to an end (Kant, 2012). As such, thetheory strongly holds that at no point should the end justify themeans moral duty should. In Kantianism, the categorical imperativedefines whether a particular action is good or bad. It helps one toidentify why certain actions are necessary and why others are not.
Inthis case, it is morally right and necessary to compensate thefalsely accused going by the provisions of Kant’s theory. Thecategorical imperative is based, to a considerable extent, on respectfor human beings. Therefore, with respect to human beings, it iscategorically important to compensate an individual after defaminghim/ her with false accusations of shameful behavior sexualharassment. Based on Kantianism, it is not only important to punishthe false accuser but also compel them to apologize to the falselyaccused. The humiliation, embarrassment, and trauma that they falselyaccused suffers innocently deserves considerable compensation(Schwitzgebel & Cushman, 2012). The categorical imperative ofpunishing the false accuser is compensating for the suffering of thefalsely accused. This way, the falsely accused shall have beentreated with respect, and the fundamental principles of moral rightsshall have been observed. Besides, in spite of the fact that thefalsely accused’s reputation cannot be reinstated to its originalposition, the psychological trauma will be reduced. Beyond merepunishing of the sexual harassment victim and compensation of thefalsely accused, the information regarding the innocence of thefalsely accused should be well publicized.
Punishingthe victim may not always be the action that produces the greatestgood. This can be attributed to various reasons including the factthat goodness cannot be quantified. It is, therefore, impractical toconsider punishment as the action that leads to the greatestgoodness. Besides, the falsely accused sexual harasser might not bewilling to punish the victim (Robinson, 2007). As such, the greatestgoodness might not be obtained from punishing the victim butresponding to the situation as per the desires of the victimprobably by forgiving the victim. This being the case, claiming thatpunishing the victim or compensating the falsely accused sexualharasser produces the greatest good is not accurate. Besides, theKantianism approach does not fully provide a satisfactory response tothe question because the fundamental principles of morals differ fromone person to the other. The extents and perspectives of respect forhuman beings differ from one person to the other. While one mayperceive punishing the victim as a sign of respect to the falselyaccused, another may perceive the same action as disrespect for thevictim going by the fact that they are already suffering from thepsychological trauma that results from sexual harassment. Theexplanation is, therefore, vague in the sense that it does notexplain the scope of respect.
Punishment,in itself, has not been quantified in the explanation. All theactions and their perceived impact on the relevant parties have,instead, been quantified. As such, to determine whether victims whofalsely accuse individuals of sexual harassment should be punished,punishment has been considered together with other occurrences. Theseother occurrences include trauma on both the side of the victim (as aresult of sexual harassment) and that of the falsely accused (as aresult of the false accusations against him), embarrassment andhumiliation. Having considered the uncompensated suffering that thefalsely accused undergoes, punishment to the victim is seen as themost suitable compensation. Beyond mere punishment, other actionshave as well been recommended (based on utilitarianism) to cater fordivergence in perceived goodness. These actions include compellingthe victim to apologize to the falsely accused, provide monetarycompensation or adhere to the requirements of the falsely accusedindividual. The scope of the term “punishment,” in this case, is,therefore, wider than that of the common meaning.
Inresponse to the objection on the vagueness of the scope of respect inthe explanation that is based on Kantianism, the explanation has beenapproached from the assumption that the basic meaning of “respectfor humans” is used. As such, the desires of the falsely accusedand what he/ she considers as respect should be considered. Thisimplies that if the falsely accused would feel respected if thevictim is punished, the action should be executed. If not so, thenthe falsely accused sexual harasser should be given an opportunity tochoose the most appropriate action in his discretion. All in all, thevictim should not be left to get off scot-free after falsely accusinganother individual of sexual harassment unless the individual findsit fit (Hill, 1983).
Towrap things up, it is increasingly evident that cases of falseaccusations on sexual harassment are on the rise. For a considerableperiod, the false accusers (victims of sexual harassment) have beenleft to get off scot-free without considering the harm they havecaused in the life of the falsely accused individual. In most cases,the falsely accused also ignores considering to file a case againstthe victim for the tort of defamation. My position is that thevictims of sexual harassment, who are the false accusers, should bepunished as a compensation to the falsely accused of the trauma,defamation, humiliation and embarrassment that they experience.Punishing them produces the greatest good as per the provisions ofutilitarianism and ensures that the falsely accused individual hasbeen treated with respect just like the Kant’s theory provides. Ifthe falsely accused individual does not find punishment as an actionthat leads to the production of the greatest good, they should begiven an opportunity to suggest the best compensation (Schwitzgebel &Cushman, 2012).
Chakrabarty,S., & Bass, A. E. (2015). Comparing virtue, consequentialist, anddeontological ethics-based corporate social responsibility:Mitigating microfinance risk in institutional voids. Journalof Business Ethics,126(3),487-512.
Hill,T. E. (1983). Ideals of human excellence and preserving naturalenvironments. EnvironmentalEthics,5(3),211-224.
Kant,I. (2012). Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals, trans. ByHJ Paton (London: Hutchinson, 1948),91.
Mulgan,T. (2014). Understandingutilitarianism.Routledge.
Robinson,P. (2007). Magnanimity and integrity as military virtues. Journalof Military Ethics,6(4),259-269.
Schwitzgebel,E., & Cushman, F. (2012). Expertise in moral reasoning? Ordereffects on moral judgment in professional philosophers andnon‐philosophers.Mind& Language,27(2),135-153.
Thames,B. [Brad Thames]. (2013, May 3). Dronesare not ethical and effective|Prof. Jeremy Waldron|Oxfordunion [Videofile]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/VFHwri2Tpus