Unintended Consequences


Given that consequentialism determines whether an act is morally right or not based on its consequences, consider the following example. You and your friends are out at the bar for a night of drinking and debauchery (sound familiar?). One of your friends, Chris, gives another friend, Hank, a shot. Chris does not know that Hank is very intoxicated and does not need another drink. When Hank takes the shot, he starts to vomit all over the bar, getting him and the rest of your friends kicked out of the bar. Your friends get angry at Chris for buying Hank another drink, but Chris claims innocence because he had no idea what would happen. This situation begs the question: is an action morally wrong when negative consequences were unintended? How about if the consequences were intended?

For paper 2, I will be exploring FIFA’s role in inciting unrest among Brazil’s public prior to the 2014 World Cup through the lens of consequentialism. In order to analyze this case, I used Google Scholar to find literature about consequentialism. Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy posted a comprehensive outline of consequentialism and the important considerations that go along with applying it. I thought that a particularly interesting point that the authors bring up is the notion of intended vs. unintended consequences, which I hopefully illustrated in my above example. Would it matter if FIFA did not understand the ramifications of its operation in Brazil? Does that make them any less culpable?

I plan to unpack this question further by first analyzing the history of FIFA. What kind of organization is it, and what are some key historical events? Who runs FIFA and what is their image? Then, I want to understand how they picked Brazil as a host nation and how they prepared. How did they aim to understand their impact, if they even did this exercise at all? At this point, I have way more questions than answers, but the overall direction of my paper is starting to become apparent.


6 responses to “Unintended Consequences

  1. In answering your first question: Would it matter if FIFA did not understand the ramifications of its operation in Brazil? I think the situation does change if FIFA did not understand the ramifications of its operation. If they did not know what they were doing was unethical, how can we argue that they should have stopped. I think it will be interesting to see in your paper how you decide if FIFA is a ethical or unethical company when looking at intended vs. unintended consequences. I am sure that FIFA didn’t intend for all the terrible consequences that came from their operations, but FIFA was unethical if they knew there was a possibility they would occur.


  2. I really like how you are approaching this argument. I think the more sources you can find to support your thoughts, the better off you will be. I liked your story at the beginning of the blog, it was a good way to express your thoughts.


  3. I personally think that FIFA is corrupt but I like how you are approaching your study in a non-biased way by examining if the consequences of their actions are unintended.


  4. I agree with Brian. I respect that you are approaching this paper in a non-biased way. That is not always the easiest thing to do.


  5. I _really_ like the unintended consequences question. I think, to an extent, you can combine it with deontology.

    A “problem” for business or organizational ethics is that often the models or theories for ethics begin with personal ethics. And, while organizations are “real” they are not the same as people.

    Now, given that FIFA (or Enron, or Nike, etc) are large organizations with intellectual, technological, and human resources, can we hold them to a HIGHER standard for expecting the unexpected? I mean your drunk friend has limited knowledge of the situation and of outcomes. FIFA, maybe, can reasonably be exepceted to know and anticiapte more outcomes.

    If we allow consequentialism to take advantage of the best we know about risk assessment, modeling, prediction, and decision sciences, then perhaps we have an empirical and ethical basis for how organizations act knowing that they should anticipate and plan for certain risks.

    “I just didn’t know” is BS for FIFA in Brazil (or in Qatar).


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