Max Weber prescribes an ethical integrity between action and consequences, instead of a Kant-ian (Immanuel) emphasis on that between action and intention

Max Weber prescribes an ethical integrity between action and consequences, instead of a Kant-ian (Immanuel) emphasis on that between action and intention

Macro-level ethics

Many religions have rules and ideals about being and acting ‘rightly’. About the concept of harm and under what circumstances and for what reasons harm can be done.

Some people believe that as long as they had good intentions, were acting from a place of love or caring, a higher ideal or purpose, they can do pretty much anything they want to someone else.

Though these days, that is changing. With laws about human rights: domestic violence, sexual autonomy; worker, citizen and child protection we seem to realize as a world that there are limits to what is acceptable.

That seems to be a harder thing for those in power to grasp though. Naming a state totalitarian or democratic doesn’t seem to clue leaders in to the fact that they are still responsible for the citizens, Their aim must be to provide for their food, shelter, clothing, clean water and safety.


Though maybe more as a teenager who has earned some autonomy rather than a baby who needs to be put in a crib if you leave the room for a minute.

And maybe that teenager doesn’t have to be watched every single second. Those who cite crime stats like they are meaningful seem to forget that happy people who feel safe rarely commit crimes. So the surveillance and policing are the end run of power mad politicians, not a just society.

2020 was a real object lesson in that. Protests happened because people were hurt, angry, afraid…. and feeling that resources were becoming more and more scarce. But instead of reassurance and pointing them at the resources they needed, govts were penalizing the people for protesting. And tightening up the laws about when they could protest and under what conditions.

There are international rules that countries have signed that outline what the governments can do, what they can use, and when. Yet these signators aren’t making this a policing issue. Then why sign?

Micro-level ethics

Familes and spouses, work sites and even internet social websites keep repeating the word ‘freedom’ like it’s an ideal, a given. When it’s not.

Social groups are responsible for each other’s safety and care. And that includes their happiness and mental health. Not just their basic needs for food and shelter. Or for communication.

You can’t walk into your home and pour gas over it and burn it because you want to move. Because you’re sick of the decor or the neighbourhood, can you?

You can’t shoot your boss and coworkers because you’re not paid enough or don’t have a good benefit pkg, can you?

You can’t leave your young kids home alone and go off for a weekend trip, can you?

So most rational adults realize that ‘freedom’ has limits. It comes with recognition that you have obligations to others, and you have responsibilities to those you owe and those you care for.

Which means that you can’t plot sedition or spread hate mssgs online either, can you?


Though the crimes of today and their justice plans are split in intention and consequences, that doesn’t negate the other. Ok so you didn’t plan to be poor and need food when the food bank had none, so you stole a loaf of bread. And you couldn’t possibly have forseen that shooting at a target and missing it would mean that you shot your neighbour’s kid. But you are still responsible for intent, actions and consequences. They are taken under consideration, but you still have to bear what was done.

…. mental acuity

And then there is the factor of how well your mind and body were at the time, how mature you were and capable of thinking thru these factors, these questions. How coerced you were by someone who influenced you, and/or the group actions (ie mob) of those you were with? Are the leaders of the action bearing the most legal weight for the action? Or those who did the actions?

In a call for justice, do we not still have to consider where the person is coming from? Do we not have to be fair, and consider teaching, healing as well as punishment?

This is a tough area of ethics to consider, as parents, bosses, social leaders and governors. And apparently, even for philosophers.

So many questions, is there a right response? Just some thinky thoughts as a new regime reviews the past year’s issues and the difference between BLM protests and the capitol riots to beef up the first ammendment in the USA. Realizing that every change of the guard between conservatives and neo-liberals has their hiccups. And how patient will we be with that? I personally have lost mine.

……(Kant) action and intention.

  • What is your plan or goal for this action?
  • Can you see the paths it might take?
  • Do you intend ill or good things for the actions and those affected?
  • Have you asked those affected what their wishes are? Or are you presuming you have the right to impact their lives, without permission and discussion?
  • Are you their caretaker or guardian?

……(Weber) action and consequences

  • Is your action thoughtless?
  • Having determined the outcome, have you looked at who might be harmed by this action?
  • Is there a way to mitigate that harm?
  • Do you know this person, and do you have an obligation to see to their safety? To what degree?
  • Would warning them help them avoid the consequences?
  • Are there better options?
  • Do the goods outweigh the negatives?
  • Are the good sufficient to justify the negatives?
  • Are the negatives so harmful that no good could be justified?

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