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A Principle of Responsive Adjustment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

Peter A. French
Affiliation:
Trinity University

Extract

I. On the morning of 28 November 1979 flight TE-901, a DC-10 operated by Air New Zealand Limited, took off from Auckland, New Zealand, on a sightseeing passenger flight over a portion of Antarctica. The pilot in command was Captain Collins. The following are paragraphs from the official Report of the Royal Commission that inquired into the events surrounding that flight.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 1984

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References

1 Report of the Royal Commission to Inquire into the Crash on Mount Erebus, Antarctica, of a DC-10 Aircraft Operated by Air New Zealand Limited, 1981. Presented to the House of Representatives by Command of His Excellency the Governor-General. Hereafter references to this report will be made in the text by citing the paragraph numbers of the Report.

2 Mackie, J. L., ‘Causes and Conditions’, American Philosophical Quarterly 2, No. 4 (October 1965), 245ff.Google Scholar

3 Regina v. Prince, 13 Cox Criminal Case 138 (1875).

4 Bradley, F. H., Ethical Studies (Oxford University Press, 1876), 46.Google Scholar

5 Austin, J. L., Philosophical Papers (Oxford University Press, 1961, 1970), 284.Google Scholar

6 Aristotle, , Nicomachean Ethics (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1962), 51.Google Scholar

7 This was pointed out to me by Professor Lisa Newton.

8 The Royal Commission, I think, is most unkind in its description of the postaccident behaviour of the senior executives of Air New Zealand. It refers to the testimony of airline executives as ‘an orchestrated litany of lies’ (No. 377). That finding has, however, been recently overturned by the New Zealand Court of Appeal.

9 This remains true at the time of this writing, as reported by Professors John Braithwaite and W. Brent Fisse who have recently interviewed Air New Zealand executives while researching a forthcoming book on the effects of publicity on I corporate policy.

10 Organizational defects are one of the most common causes of corporately caused untoward events and they are also responsible for many criminal violations (particularly in the advertising area). A case in point is reported in Andrew, Hopkins‘ study for the Australian Institute of Criminology on The Impact of Prosecutions Under the Trade Practices Act (April 1978). The Sharp Corporation of Australia falsely advertised that its microwave ovens were approved by the Standards Association of Australia (SAA). The ovens had been approved by the New South Wales Electricity Authority according to standards set for electrical equipment by the SAA. But no SAA standards existed at the time for microwave ovens. The Sharp's sales manager, whoauthorized advertisements, claimed that although his technical staff would have been aware of the distinctions in the standards and authorities, that staff is not, in the standard corporate procedure, consulted on such advertising and he was ignorant of the relevant distinctions. ‘Sharp's failure was a failure to involve the appropriate technically qualified people in checking the advertising copy before publication …the offence was not intentional’ (pp. 56). In response to prosecution, Sharp changed its advertising procedures to ensure that technical staff check copy before it is published to prevent any recurrence of the false advertising. Sharp's responsive adjustment is sufficient to rule out a finding of moral responsibility in the matter, whereas a failure to alter the corporate procedures, given the Principle of Responsive Adjustment, would have provided a clear ground on which someone might claim, as one judge in the case did, that the advertisement was a ‘gross and wicked attempt to swindle the public’, an intentional corporate action meriting moral reprobation and animadversion.Google Scholar

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