Emmanuel Kant And The Morality Of Scams

An Essay about Moral Duty and Scams

Philosophy of Scams

Author:
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

In the work we do of scam victim advocacy and support, Emmanuel Kant’s philosophy can play an important role in guiding our approach to understanding and addressing the moral complexities inherent in scams and their aftermath. Kantian ethics, with its emphasis on universalizability, respect for autonomy, duty-based morality, and rationality, provides valuable insights into the ethical dimensions of relationship scams and the experiences of scam victims.

Of course, scammers violate Kant’s principles by treating victims as mere means to an end, exploiting their vulnerabilities, and undermining their autonomy. As victims navigate their recovery process, Kantian ethics underscores their moral duty to prioritize self-care, seek justice, respect their autonomy, engage in rational reflection, and educate others about the dangers of scams.

By adhering to these ethical principles, scam victims can empower themselves to recover from their experiences, advocate for their rights, and contribute to the prevention of fraud and exploitation in society.

Emmanuel Kant And The Morality Of Scams - An Essay - 2024

Emmanuel Kant is a Philosopher who comes up frequently in the work we do here at SCARS because of the Moral Imperatives of Scammers, Scam Victims, and the Crimes Themselves

In the work we do as a scam victims’ advocacy, assistance, support, and services provider, we frequently encounter philosophical and moral, or ethical dilemmas, and Emmanuel Kant’s name and approaches often come up for guidance. We are not about just hating scammers, but rather in understanding these phenomena at the deepest level possible.

While it might seem like arcane philosophy might have nothing to do with helping traumatized scam victims or disrupting scams, in fact, the moral consequences we all face have very much to do with it. All of us, criminals, their victims, and the support providers are (or should be) constantly asking ourself had ethical questions about how to help and do the most good. These are fundamental moral philosophy questions that scholars like Emmanuel Kant have well addressed in their works.

Obviously, scammers do not spend a lot of time thinking about the philosophical and ethical question related to what they are doing to others, but eventually they will have to answer those questions about why they did it and how to undo the harm they cause. At least we hope they do or the impact of their misdeeds will haunt them for the rest of their lives,

It may seem strange to talk about scammers as human beings who are normal people doing terrible things to others, but this is the reality for the vast majority of these criminals. The misguided and morally bankrupt ethics are at their core going to affect their lives negatively no matter how much wealth they manage to steal.

In order to defeat an adversary you must really know them. An in so doing you see their human even through all the terror they create. Here is a quote from a book/movie by the Author Orson Scott Card:

The quote “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy. It also follows that to love your enemy, you must know your enemy” is attributed to novel “Ender’s Game.” The book explores themes of empathy, understanding, and the complexities of conflict, particularly in the context of combatting an enemy. In this quote, Card suggests that understanding one’s adversary is essential not only for strategizing against them but also for fostering empathy and ultimately reconciliation.

Ultimately, our collective goal is not just to disrupt and arrest scammers, and see them sent to prison, but also to recognize them as redeemable human beings that can choose an honest moral life when they emerge from incarceration. In this way it makes it possible for victims to not only forgive themselves for their one mistake but also to forgive the criminals for their own wellbeing.

Who was Emmanuel Kant?

Emmanuel Kant was a German philosopher known for his foundational work in ethics and epistemology. His philosophy, often referred to as Kantian ethics, centers around the concept of moral duty and the importance of rationality and autonomy or agency in ethical decision-making.

Kant argued that moral actions should be guided by a sense of duty rather than consequences or personal inclinations. He proposed the categorical imperative, a principle that dictates that an action is morally permissible if it can be universally applied without contradiction. In simpler terms, Kantian ethics emphasizes the importance of acting in a way that one would be willing to see everyone else act in similar circumstances.

Kantian Ethics and Scammers

How does this relate to relationship scams and scam victims?

  • Universalizability: Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative suggests that ethical actions must be universalizable or able to be universal, meaning they can be applied consistently to all rational beings. In the context of scams, this implies that deceptive practices cannot be morally justified because they involve treating others as mere means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. Scammers exploit victims by manipulating their trust and vulnerability for personal gain, violating Kant’s principle of universalizability. But this also applies to the ‘white lies’ all of us tell others every day.
  • Respect for Autonomy: Emmanuel Kant’s ethics emphasizes the importance of respecting individual autonomy or agency and rationality. Scammers often target vulnerable individuals who are less able to exercise their autonomy due to factors such as past traumas, cognitive impairment, emotional distress, inattention, or lack of information. By deceiving victims and manipulating their decision-making processes, scammers undermine their own autonomy and violate Kant’s principle of respect for all persons.
  • Duty-Based Morality: Kantian ethics prioritize moral duty and obligation over personal desires or consequences. In the context of scams, individuals have a moral duty to refrain from engaging in deceptive or fraudulent behavior, regardless of potential benefits or incentives. Victims of scams experience feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame, and betrayal trauma, but it’s important to recognize that they are not morally responsible for the actions of the scammer – in other words, it was never the victim’s fault. Kant’s philosophy underscores the importance of holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and upholding ethical standards in all interactions.
  • Emphasis on Rationality: Kant emphasized the role of reason and rationality in ethical decision-making. Victims of scams may be manipulated through emotional appeals, misinformation, or psychological tactics designed to bypass their rational faculties. Emmanuel Kant’s ethics encourage individuals to critically evaluate information, exercise sound judgment, and rely on reason rather than emotion when making decisions, though we know this is not always possible. By promoting rational autonomy, Kant’s philosophy offers a framework for resisting manipulation and deception in relationships and transactions that can be learned and applied against future scam attempts..

Kantian Ethics and Scam Victim Recovery

Emmanuel Kant’s ethics can also shed light on the responsibilities and obligations of scam victims during their recovery process:

  • Moral Duty to Self: According to Kantian ethics, individuals have a moral duty to prioritize their own well-being and pursue actions that contribute to their moral and psychological development – in other words, to seek professional help and commit to their recovery from these experiences. In the context of recovering from a scam, victims have a responsibility to take care of themselves, seek support, and engage in activities that promote healing and growth. This may involve seeking therapy, joining support groups, practicing self-care, and setting boundaries to prevent further harm.
  • Respect for Autonomy: Kantian ethics emphasizes the importance of respecting the autonomy and rationality of individuals. Scam victims have the right to make their own decisions regarding their recovery process and to assert control over their lives. They should be empowered to seek professional assistance on their own, without coercion or manipulation from others. Respecting the autonomy of scam victims involves listening to their needs, validating their experiences, and providing support without imposing judgment or undue pressure.
  • Duty to Seek Justice: Emmanuel Kant’s ethics uphold the principle of justice and the obligation to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Scam victims have a duty to report every fraudulent activity, cooperate with law enforcement authorities, and pursue legal recourse against perpetrators when feasible. Seeking justice not only serves the interests of individual victims but also contributes to the greater good by deterring future scams and promoting societal trust and integrity. However, this is about rational seeking of justice, through law enforcement and the courts, not vigilantism.
  • Emphasis on Rationality and Reflection: Kantian ethics encourage individuals to engage in critical reflection and rational deliberation when making decisions. Scam victims have a responsibility to examine their experiences, identify vulnerabilities, and learn from their mistakes in order to prevent future victimization. This may involve evaluating warning signs, improving financial literacy, understanding cognitive biases, and developing resilience strategies to cope with adversity. By cultivating rational autonomy and self-awareness, scam victims can empower themselves to make informed choices and navigate all future relationships more effectively and with proper boundaries.
  • Duty to Educate Others: Kantian ethics emphasize the importance of moral education and the transmission of ethical values to future generations. Scam victims have a duty to share their experiences, raise awareness about common scams, educate others about the tactics used by perpetrators, and how to recover from these crimes. By speaking out against fraud and deception, victims can help protect vulnerable individuals from falling prey to similar scams or fraud and contribute to the prevention of future victimization.

Summary

Kantian ethics provides valuable insights into the ethical dimensions of relationship scams and the experiences of scam victims. By emphasizing universalizability, respect for autonomy or agency, duty-based morality, and rationality, Kant’s philosophy highlights the importance of ethical behavior, accountability, and critical thinking in navigating complex social interactions and avoiding exploitation and harm.

This highlights the responsibilities and obligations of scam victims to prioritize their own well-being, respect their autonomy, seek justice by reporting every crime, engage in rational reflection, and educate others about the dangers of scams. By adhering to these ethical principles, scam victims can empower themselves to recover from their experiences, advocate for their rights, and contribute to the prevention of fraud and exploitation in society.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at www.ScamPsychology.org

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

Opinions

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.

Disclaimer:

SCARS IS A DIGITAL PUBLISHER AND DOES NOT OFFER HEALTH OR MEDICAL ADVICE, LEGAL ADVICE, FINANCIAL ADVICE, OR SERVICES THAT SCARS IS NOT LICENSED OR REGISTERED TO PERFORM.

IF YOU’RE FACING A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES IMMEDIATELY, OR VISIT THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM OR URGENT CARE CENTER. YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER BEFORE FOLLOWING ANY MEDICALLY RELATED INFORMATION PRESENTED ON OUR PAGES.

ALWAYS CONSULT A LICENSED ATTORNEY FOR ANY ADVICE REGARDING LEGAL MATTERS.

A LICENSED FINANCIAL OR TAX PROFESSIONAL SHOULD BE CONSULTED BEFORE ACTING ON ANY INFORMATION RELATING TO YOUR PERSONAL FINANCES OR TAX RELATED ISSUES AND INFORMATION.

SCARS IS NOT A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR – WE DO NOT PROVIDE INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS OR BUSINESSES. ANY INVESTIGATIONS THAT SCARS MAY PERFORM IS NOT A SERVICE PROVIDED TO THIRD-PARTIES. INFORMATION REPORTED TO SCARS MAY BE FORWARDED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT AS SCARS SEE FIT AND APPROPRIATE.

This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use

Legal Notices: 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at www.AgainstScams.org

SCARS, SCARS|INTERNATIONAL, SCARS, SCARS|SUPPORT, SCARS, RSN, Romance Scams Now, SCARS|INTERNATION, SCARS|WORLDWIDE, SCARS|GLOBAL, SCARS, Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams, SCARS|ANYSCAM, Project Anyscam, Anyscam, SCARS|GOFCH, GOFCH, SCARS|CHINA, SCARS|CDN, SCARS|UK, SCARS|LATINOAMERICA, SCARS|MEMBER, SCARS|VOLUNTEER, SCARS Cybercriminal Data Network, Cobalt Alert, Scam Victims Support Group, SCARS ANGELS, SCARS RANGERS, SCARS MARSHALLS, SCARS PARTNERS, are all trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the legal department for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at legal@AgainstScams.org