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JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

Option (C): How can Utilitarian Teleology and Kantian Deontology be used
to analyse the ethics of journalists using hidden cameras to report people
smugglers?

There exists a distinct aura of ethical ambiguity surrounding the intentional
act of being immoral, if in the pursuit of a moral outcome. In the specific
case of a journalist choosing to deceive people smugglers by filming them
with hidden cameras, the question of whether it is ethically moral to do so
has different answers depending on different philosophical standpoints. In the
MEAA Code of Ethics, clause 8 states that all journalists must use fair,
responsible and honest means to obtain information, however, in a case of
substantial advancement of the public interest this standard can be
overridden. In an analysis of this now questionable ethical position, Ill be
considering how both Utilitarian Teleology and Kantian Deontology would
approach the situation. By contrast, the most notable difference between the
two ethical philosophies is whether morality is determined via pure reason, or
instead derived from empirical observations. In the case of a journalist using
a hidden camera to report on people smugglers, I will first be questioning
how Utilitarian Teleology could be used to assess this act of deception
considered inherently immoral, by detailing its ethical philosophy based in the
epistemology of Empiricism. Whereas secondly, I will then question how the
ethics of Kantian Deontology compares, by detailing its ethical philosophy
grounded in the epistemology of Rationalism. In comparing the two ethical
philosophies, I will compare their varying strengths and weaknesses.

JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

First, before considering how the ethics rooted in Utilitarian Teleology would
apply to a journalist actively deceiving another to report on people
smugglers, I will clarify the rationale supporting teleological ethics. Utilitarian
Teleology reasons from the Particular to the General, which means that via
inductive reasoning from observable evidence, we should ascertain truth and
general principles. This process of reasoning has its basis in the
epistemology Empiricism, which infers that all knowledge, truth and concepts
should logically only be derived from sensory experience. Therefore, to
analyse the case of a journalist using a deceptive hidden camera using the
ethics of Utilitarian Teleology, we should not be influenced by preconceived
beliefs of morality based on intellectual reason alone, but rather observe the
cost-benefit analysis of its consequential outcome. Its important to note here
that the intention behind an individuals action is also of importance to
Utilitarian Teleology, especially when an expected outcome does not occur.
For example, in the case of the journalist who performs an act of deception
with the intention of exposing people smugglers, if, for whatever reason
he/she is not successful and their intention is not actualised, than the
journalists act of deception would still retain a determined morality.

Via this ethical perspective of Utilitarian Teleology, we have seen that an act
is considered moral if in pursuit of a greater good and/or done with moral
intentions. However, when considering this teleological approach to a
journalists morality, the following problem surfaces: what factor determines
whether exposing people smugglers is a moral goal, or if acting deceptively
is justifiable? In regards to this question, an answer is offered from the
JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and his Principle of Utility. Bentham
states that the two sovereign masters of pleasure and pain should guide us
on what we ought to do in life, as right and wrong are fastened to their
throne (Bentham, 1789). In other words, Benthams utilitarian theory dictates
that what is right equates to what generates pleasure, and what is
wrong to what generates pain (Bentham, 1789). To quantify these
intangible concepts he created the Hedonistic Calculus, which as a form of
normative ethics could theoretically determine any actions morality via a set
of questions, which numerically value the overall pain/pleasure generated.
However, in the case of a journalist using a hidden camera, Benthams unity
of utilitarian teleology and hedonism runs into several problems. First, it is
impossible for a journalist to numerically quantify intangible concepts such as
pleasure and pain, and therefore is an illogical guide for how one ought to
act. Second, even if a journalist could quantify pleasure and pain, there is
no way to do so before the act is committed, and is therefore an illogical
guide on how one ought to act. Thirdly, the act of a journalist quantifying
pleasure and pain will still be subjective, and therefore does not retain the
objectivity of true calculus. Utilitarian Teleology appears to run into a
consistent problem of subjectivity of experience, and its in regards to this
reliance on contingent experience that Kantian Deontology contrasts.

Second, before considering how Kantian Deontology could be used to
analyse the ethics of a journalist using a hidden camera, Ill clarify the
rationale behind deontological ethics generally. In contrast to the
aforementioned philosophy, Deontology reasons instead from the General to
JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

Particular, which means that it should be via deductive reasoning based on
intellect alone that we generate rationale applicable to particular
circumstances. This process of reasoning has its grounding in the
epistemology of Rationalism: truth derived from intellectual and rational
deduction, free from contingent, sensory experience. This appealed to Kant,
who wished to uncover a pure moral philosophy free from vagarious
circumstances and inconsistent sensory experience like teleological ethics is.
Kantian Deontology contends that logic, or the inherent rational nature
found in humanity, exists irrelevant to sensory experience, and therefore
rationality cannot be borrowed from experience (Kant, 1797, p. 34). It
follows then, that truth must be derived from pure reason alone (Kant,
1797, p. 47). Kant then argues that if all humans are rational creatures,
endowed with free will, and if morality is a rational concept, then morality is
an innate characteristic of humanity and must be grounded in reason. It is
important to note here, that in contrast to intention emphasised in teleological
ethics, that Kantian Deontology highlights that as human beings with free
will, that motive is an inherent symbol of the morality of an action. In the
case of a journalist using a hidden camera, this is exemplified in a situation
where one journalist may have the motive of being a highly paid journalist,
where anothers motive is to help expose the crime of people smuggling.
When comparing the motives of the two journalists, Kantian Deontology
would highlight that one motive is considered more moral than another.
However, as noted in teleological ethics, what defines whether something is
moral or not. Well, according to Kant, morality must not be rooted in
contingent outcomes but rather in categorical imperatives: laws untied to
JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

any particular conditions, and applicable to all rational beings. These moral
maxims then an individuals reasoning for whether an action committed is
moral must be able to be generalised as a universal law without
contradiction (Kant, 1797, p. 19).

So, if we are to consider how Kantian Deontology would approach the ethics
of a journalist using a hidden camera, one who believes deception is
necessary if to achieve a greater good, than that journalist would have to
adhere to the Law of Non-Contradiction and universalise his maxim. This
would require the journalist to subsequently wish for everyone else to
deceive him in turn, if in the pursuit of a greater good. Its here that we see
this would create a contradictory world for the journalist, as if the act of
deception is morally permissible for everyone if for a subjective maxim, than
there would be no basis for the general public to believe that journalists
werent deceiving them too. It follows then, that to act deceptively there must
first exist a basis of universal trust, as in world of distrust there would no
logical way to act deceptively in the first place.

By considering these two different ethical philosophies, we have seen how
the ethics of a journalist using a hidden camera can be approached. If we
are to consider Utilitarian Teleology, which considers the cost-benefit
outcome of the acts consequences, then we can gauge a definition of
morality in empirical observations. This allows morality to be discussed in
consequentialist terms, and be determined by whether it generates a benefit
to humanity overall or not. However, due to the subjectivity of human
JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1

experience, there cannot exist a definite guide to what is deemed good or
bad. Benthams Principle of Utility attempted to answer this dilemma,
however it weakness was in its inability to offer a valid method to objectively
quantify concepts of pleasure and pain. This reliance on empirical data
contrasts in comparison to Kantian Deontology, which instead relies on
intellectual deduction. This deontological standpoint considers an act an
inherently imbued with its own morality, determined via the categorical
imperatives of mankinds rationality. If we are to consider a definition of
morality based on this ethical philosophy, then we can determine how one
ought to act based on intellectual deduction. However, this reasoning of
Kants implies that there exists an objective standard of right and wrong, one
that is collectively proven to exist, according to Kant, by humans being
rational creatures. However, it fails to explain that just because rationality is
a human characteristic, how rational considerations of what is moral and
what is not would remain consistent throughout each individual. It infers that
there exists an objective standard or right and wrong, one that survives
through the rationality of mankind. This cannot be proved to exist, and this
interpretation is still subjective to Kants personal opinion. It follows then, in
consideration of both ethical philosophies, that if moral values can, by
definition, only be determined on an individual subjective basis, and the
ethics of using a hidden camera is determined via its moral value, than the
ethics of using a hidden camera can only be determined on an individual,
subjective basis. It is then a matter of preference, rather than logical
obedience, that you would approach morality from the position of Utilitarian
Teleology or Kantian Deontology, or any other ethical philosophy.
JACK CALLIL | MEDIA ETHICS | ESSAY 1