Two Ethical Principles

  • øyvind Kvalnes
Open Access


This chapter presents two ethical principles that are helpful in analyses of morally challenging situations at work. The principle of equality states that equal cases should be treated equally, and that a difference in treatment requires that we can identify a morally relevant difference. The principle is related to the Golden Rule, and to the consistency formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative. The principle of publicity states that the decision-maker should be willing to defend his or her decision face-to-face with relevant individuals and groups of people. In an organizational setting, this can include internal and external stakeholders like one’s colleagues, leaders, customers, and suppliers. This principle is related to the universality formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative, in that it invites a consideration of whether other rational agents would endorse the decision or judgement. From the outset, the two principles are neutral with regard to the tension between utilitarianism and duty ethics. Both traditions can acknowledge that different treatment requires the identification of a morally relevant difference, but will disagree about what constitutes such a difference. They can also acknowledge the transparency requirement inherent in the principle of publicity, but again part company when it comes to the applications of the principle.

Copyright information

© øyvind Kvalnes 2015

Open Access This Chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • øyvind Kvalnes
    • 1
  1. 1.BI Norwegian Business SchoolNorway

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