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Lecture 2

PHIL 331 Lecture 2: Module 1 The Basis of Reasoning Part 2

11 Pages
65 Views
Summer 2017

Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 331
Professor
R. Ahmad
Lecture
2

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Module 1: Part 2 - Moral Theories
Introduction
In this section, we will look at the moral theories to which philosophers most often
appeal in their explorations of issues in business ethics.
Unlike other modules, this module includes a summary of the moral theories which will
repeat some of what you find in the Introduction. All that you will need to know about
moral theory (for the purposes of this course) is contained here in the module, and in
the Introduction. Many of the main ideas will be repeated or emphasized but be sure to
consult both sources for the information you will need to learn the moral theories, and to
apply them throughout this course.
Readings:
1. Introduction: Theories of Justice and Their Relationship to Business Ethics. (Poff)
2. Case 14: False Advertising and the Miracle of Ephedra
Learning Objectives
By the end of this section, you should be able to:
1. Outline the key differences between various moral theories.
2. Identify examples of arguments based upon the various moral theories.
Moral Theories
In this section, we will review briefly four influential theories regarding how we should
make moral/ethical decisions. We will then distill this range of theories into a
single practical framework, consisting of a small list of principles generally seen as
relevant to moral decision making. This course is not intended to teach you all of the
philosophical details of these various theories; rather, our goal shall be to give you a
basic understanding so that you can understand the major differences between theories
and apply them to new questions. Note that you will use just one theory at a time in your
arguments, since they all offer different, sometimes conflicting, reasoning. If you use
more than one theory, you will not be able to justify your view effectively. As you read
through this section, decide which theory you think is the most convincing and plan to
use that in your arguments to see whether it gets you to the answers you want. If not,
then you might need to try another theory.
Let us begin with some terminology. First, what is morality or ethics? ("Ethics" is a
synonym for "moral philosophy" or "moral theory", and in practice, we will use the terms
interchangeably.) Roughly speaking, morality is a set of rules or standards of
correct behaviour in social settings (that is, in settings where people interact). Morality is
what distinguishes good from bad behaviour, and sets standards of right and wrong. We
must be careful to distinguish morality, however, from other sets of rules such
as legal rules and rules of etiquette. So, what is a moral theory? We will begin to
answer this question by looking at different kinds of moral statements or claims we
might make.
Here are some examples of particular moral judgments about specific cases:
"It was wrong of Jennifer to take those office supplies."
"Mr. Bilne was right to fire the employees who revealed company secrets to our
competitor."
Here are some examples of general moral judgments:
"Corporations should take responsibility for the actions of employees."
"It is wrong to make false statements on one's income tax forms."
See how these last 2 judgments are more general than the first two? The last two are
about categories of behaviour, not just about particular instances.
Moral theories are more general still. A theory, in the general sense of the word, is a
system or principle that claims to account for a large number of particular observations
or judgments. A moral theory is an account that seeks to provide a general rule for
moral decision making in a wide range of domains. That is, a moral theory purports to
tell us how moral decisions should be made in general everywhere, in any situation. A
moral theory will not tell us what choice we should make in any particular situation, but it
will (usually) claim to be relevant to, or to govern, a wide range of different situations.
In this module, we will examine briefly, here, four moral theories. These are:
utilitarianism, deontology, contractarianism, and virtue theory. Versions of each of these
have been influential upon a wide range of thinkers over at least several
centuries. Note that the Introduction of the textbook includes Feminist Ethics and the
Ethics of Care which are also quite interesting theories to take into consideration, but
are rarely applied to cases in business ethics since they tend to take a more
generalized perspective, and are not designed to tackle specific issues like the ones we
will discuss.
Utilitarianism
We begin with a theory known as "utilitarianism." Utilitarianism has its
historical roots in the work of Jeremy Bentham (17481832) and John Stuart
Mill (18061873). Utilitarianism falls into a more general class of moral
theories known as "consequentialist" theories. Consequentialisttheories, as
the name implies, claim that we should make moral decisions based solely
upon the expected consequences of our actions. Utilitarianism is
a consequentialist moral theory that says in particular that, when faced with a moral
decision, we ought to do whatever will maximize total benefit, taking everyone
concerned into consideration. (Note: "utility" is a word that needs to be defined clearly
when you're using this theory. Typically it means 'benefit', 'good' or 'happiness'.)
Utilitarianism can be summed up by the following two claims:
1. The right action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest
balance of benefit over harm.
2. Everybody counts equally.
Each of these components requires some explanation. First, what is meant
by "benefit"? Different utilitarian philosophers have interpreted this term differently.
Some have held that what is important is happiness. That is, we should maximize the
total amount of happiness or pleasure for all concerned. Others have held that what is
important is actual welfare or well-being. They argue that we should maximize the
extent to which we actually help people (and minimize harm) regardless of whether or
not that makes them happy. This distinction will not matter much for us in this course,
but it is good to be aware that there are different interpretations of what it means to
"benefit" somebody.
One thing that utilitarians generally agree on, however, is that they are concerned with
all types of benefits, both short-term and long-term. So, utilitarianism asks us to
consider all foreseeable benefits and harms that may result from our actions, not just
ones that will result immediately. One final note about the notion of benefit: utilitarians
are concerned not just with harms and benefits that are guaranteed, but also with harms
and benefits that are possible or likely. When a benefit or harm is possible or likely,
utilitarians tell us to include the degree of possibility in our calculations: a potential harm
or benefit that is very unlikely counts for less than a potential harm or benefit that is very
likely (though they must still be counted to some extent).
Second, what is the significance of the utilitarian's claim that "everybody counts
equally?" For one thing, this means that we are never justified in giving extra weight to
our own preferences just because they are our own. Nor are we justified in giving
preferential treatment to the interests of family or friends; as far as moral decision
making goes, strangers matter just as much. It also means, for example, that the
interests of a poor man ought to count for just as much as the interests of a king.
This does not mean that utilitarianism demands that we all benefit the same amount
from every decision. Sometimes, that won't be possible. What's important to utilitarians
is that in making a decision, everyone's interests are given equal consideration. Note
further that utilitarians do not require that we maximize benefit to each person. What
matters for utilitarians is the total amount of benefit or harm, when we "add up" the
benefits and harms for each person. So an action that harms a few people in order to
benefit a lot of people would likely be endorsed by utilitarians.
At this point it is imperative to point out that utilitarianism is often described as cost-
benefit analysis (CBA). However this is a serious misunderstanding of the

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Description
Module 1: Part 2 Moral Theories Introduction In this section, we will look at the moral theories to which philosophers most often appeal in their explorations of issues in business ethics. Unlike other modules, this module includes a summary of the moral theories which will repeat some of what you find in the Introduction. All that you will need to know about moral theory (for the purposes of this course) is contained here in the module, and in the Introduction. Many of the main ideas will be repeated or emphasized but be sure to consult both sources for the information you will need to learn the moral theories, and to apply them throughout this course. Readings: 1. Introduction: Theories of Justice and Their Relationship to Business Ethics. (Poff) 2. Case 14: False Advertising and the Miracle of Ephedra Learning Objectives By the end of this section, you should be able to: 1. Outline the key differences between various moral theories. 2. Identify examples of arguments based upon the various moral theories. Moral Theories In this section, we will review briefly four influential theories regarding how we should make moralethical decisions. We will then distill this range of theories into a single practical framework, consisting of a small list of principles generally seen as relevant to moral decision making. This course is not intended to teach you all of the philosophical details of these various theories; rather, our goal shall be to give you a basic understanding so that you can understand the major differences between theories and apply them to new questions. Note that you will use just one theory at a time in your arguments, since they all offer different, sometimes conflicting, reasoning. If you use more than one theory, you will not be able to justify your view effectively. As you read through this section, decide which theory you think is the most convincing and plan to use that in your arguments to see whether it gets you to the answers you want. If not, then you might need to try another theory. Let us begin with some terminology. First, what is morality or ethics? (Ethics is a synonym for moral philosophy or moral theory, and in practice, we will use the terms
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