Obstacles to Ethical Decision Making Behind the Vw Diesel Dupe Scandal Paper

Obstacles to Ethical Decision Making Behind the Vw Diesel Dupe Scandal Paper

Paper #2


Please answer one (and only one!) of the following three questions.


1) Write a dialogue (a play) between Cicero’s merchant and Albert Carr. (Name the merchant.) Imagine that Albert Carr sidles up to the merchant just when he needs to decide what to do—say, just before or just after landing at Rhodes. Remember that Cicero describes the merchant as “a virtuous, upright man…who would not conceal the facts from the Rhodians if he thought that it was immoral to do so, but who might be in doubt whether such silence would really be immoral.” Have Carr make his argument to the merchant; make your merchant skeptical of Carr’s argument, but open to listening. (Your merchant is familiar with Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy, according to which lying is never permissible, whatever the circumstances. Have your merchant discuss Kant.) Will Carr persuade the merchant? Will the merchant reject Carr’s argument as fallacious? Make sure your dialogue explores the argument thoroughly! (See the slides on Carr’s argument on Moodle.)


2) You are a business ethics consultant, which is a growing career path. The new (as of 2018) Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, has contracted with you to write a report on what went wrong in the company such that “diesel dupe,” as it has been called, was even thinkable. Write a report with the thesis that people at VW at the time basically weren’t thinking—that they had fallen prey to a number of obstacles to ethical decision-making. For your report, which you should address directly to Diess, 1) review what VW did and 2) explain the obstacles to ethical decision-making that people fell prey to. Obstacles to consider include: rationalization/self-deception, motivated blindness, strain (extreme stress), groupthink, the bystander effect, pluralistic ignorance, and the normalization of deviance.


3) You are a business ethics consultant for the investment firm Franklin Templeton, for which Amy Cooper used to work as an insurance portfolio manager. On the same day that George Floyd was murdered, May 25, 2020, an altercation took place between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no relation) in Central Park in New York City. Amy Cooper twice called 911 to claim that Christian Cooper was threatening her and her dog. Christian Cooper recorded one of her calls and posted the recording to Facebook; his sister then tweeted it, and the tweet went viral. Amy Cooper was charged with falsely reporting an incident to police; Franklin Templeton shortly thereafter fired her from her job. (In February 2021, prosecutors asked that the charge be dismissed after she completed a therapy program on racial equity; the court agreed.)


Amy Cooper is now suing Franklin Templeton for firing her without conducting an investigation. This where you enter. Franklin Templeton aspires to be a so-called slow-thinking organization: an organization that makes decisions using what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls system 2 thinking—analytic, deliberative, considered—rather than system 1—quick, unchecked, impulsive. The question that Franklin Templeton has engaged you to answer is: Was the decision to fire Amy Cooper the product of system 1 or system 2 thinking? After watching the recording and reading some analyses, write a three-part report for Franklin Templeton.


There seems to be no question that Amy Cooper tried to use to her advantage her identity as a white woman and Christian Cooper’s identity as a black man. In part 1 of your report, analyze the altercation from that point of view. Draw here from an article by Bryan Massingale on the assumptions of white privilege (or what he also calls white supremacy). What assumptions did Amy Cooper seek to mobilize to her advantage?


In part 2 of your report, consider whether there is any merit to the revisionist point of view that Amy Cooper was too quickly condemned. See here this summary of a recent Substack report by Bari Weiss (or listen to the report, though it is long). Consider in particular whether any well-documented cognitive biases—e.g., confirmation bias, fundamental attribution error, availability bias, the anchoring effect, the representative heuristic, the bias blind spot—contributed to Amy Cooper’s condemnation as “the Central Park Karen.”


In part 3 of your report, answer the question that Franklin Templeton has engaged you to answer: Was the decision to fire Amy Cooper the product of system 1 or system 2 thinking? That is, was it analytic, deliberative, considered (system 2) or quick, unchecked, impulsive (system 1)?


In writing your report, be sure to take into account that you are writing about a very delicate matter about which people may have strong feelings. Make sure that your report is a clear example of system 2 thinking! Be analytic, deliberative, and considered in what you say. Check your own biases to the extent possible.


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