Introduction to Business Ethics
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Ethics comes from the greek word Ethikos. Aristotle coined this term in the 3rd BC.
Ethics can mean a lot of different things depending on what theory we are discussing.
Is the right thing to do based on what will happen (consequentialism) or I do the right thing
because I have to and it is my duty (Deontological) --Emmanual Kant's theory.
Business is very consequentialistic based on what the consequences are.
o Based on what is the right person to be.
Someone who looks out for #1. Self-Interest.
Ethics does not deal with facts, it deals with values.
o Facts do not necessarily create values.
o Business begins when life is good and there has to be trust. If someone else is cooking,
hunting food etc, then you have time for business
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Watched a Clip on Jet Li.
Jet li, should he do what he believes in or what is good for 'all under heaven'.
John Stuart Mill - 19th Century English
Big time consequentialist
Came up with a different name for it - Utilitarianism
Quality is more important that quantity of pleasure.
If you love money, than that's okay. Money does make people happy. It is an article of happiness.
It gives you happiness and that's enough. Its not a means to an end.
There is no abstract concept of happiness.
Mill is an Empiricist
o Empiricist believe that we get all our knowledge from experiences.
o The only problem with our love of money is if it doesn't follow the utilitarian principle.
Epicurus - Greek 3th BC. Struggled to find out why we have life. The reason we have life is to seek
some sort of pleasure or happiness. This is called Epicuremism.
o He was the first one to say that the goal in life is happiness. The 3 ways to do this was;
Live within your means.
Ability to sit back and think.
o He spent time at the garden and hung out. Sort of the world's first hippy. o He was during his day misunderstood because the word Epicureanism is sometimes
confused with Hedonism
Hedonism - where life is a party, example, Lindsay Lohan
Jeremy Bentham - 18th Century
o Said that life exists because of pain/pleasure principle.
No distinction between animals and humans regarding this point.
o Animal rights people say that animals should be treated the same as humans.
o Utilitarian principle - good in life is pleasure or happiness. The greatest happiness when the
most people are happy. The goal in life is when you can create the greatest amount of
happiness for the most amount of people. This is the ultimate goal of consequentialism or
o You're not supposed to put yourself first. External agent
o Self-interest means you take your own self into account as well as others. Selfish means just
Wrote 2 books.
There is something human that makes us higher than other beings and that's intellectual pleasure.
o Most people would prefer to be an unhappy human than a happy human.
A pig is a Hedonist. The reason we don't choose to be a pig is because we value reasoning
and thinking more than happiness.
Dosteonsky - 19th century Russian
o Wrote a book called crime & punishment
o There was a mean miser who had tons of money. Was the right thing to do, kill the miser
and distribute the funds.
We are just looking at the actions of one person or another
John Rawls - 20th century American
He did not believe in Utilitarianism and consequentialism.
He believes in what is called Rule Utilitarianism.
o He means that if you are going to actually act on certain actions in a society, you better have
the majority's consent to do it.
o Promise - under act utilitarianism, promises don't exist, because its always possible to be
broken since you have to please the majority.
o A rule utilitarian believes that the way society functions, there are certain rules that
determine what actions are proper. For example to punish someone, it must already be a
rule to punish people for a certain action.
The criticism of Rawls is that he is betraying the utilitarian principle. He says there are rules
in place that say you can break the rules if they are there.
o If he invented a machine, that allowed us to into the world that we wanted, would we go in
The absolute poor- People who are on the brink of death and starvation.
o Shouldn't we give some of our money to these peole.
Peter Singer - 20th century american o Under consequentialism, you should give to the poor, even if its not certain if its going to
help or if they are anonymous to you.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Immanuel Kant - 18th Century German
Morals - Free will - reason
These traits only exist in people
Reason is logic. Logic works like math. Wants formulas that are universal
Whenever we want to decide something, we should have Goodwill.
You can never be certain of the consequences because it happens in the future so consequences
should be ignored.
We have imperatives;
o 2 forms; Hypothetical and Categorical.
o When consequentialist say they are acting out of good, then they are hypothetically acting
out of good since it can't be certain.
o If we're going to be logical, we need to act on those maxims which we would be willing to
have as universal laws.
o When you do things, you need to wonder if everyone in the world would do it.
Kant's father sent him through a full education
o After his father's death he was a university lecturer incorporating humour and stories in his
o Advised students to stand on their own feet
o He was really good at playing billiards
o He never travelled more than 10 miles from the town from where he was born
Throughout his life he suffered from poor health.
o He maintained his health through rigorous self -discipline. Long walks, etc.
o Freedom or autonomy
o Right and wrong depend on what we think. It is impossible to think of anything in the
universe that is good without qualification except a good will. Its not good because of the
actions or results, its good simply because of its virtue. Its goodness lies in itself.
o The golden rule. Do onto others, as you would want them to do to you.
Egoism and Virtue Ethics
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Egoism and Virtue Ethics
--don’t read article on page 337, its stupid, not necessary.
--Plato is the student of Socrates, he is also his hero. There is Glaucon and Adeimantus who
are students as well. Socrates believes in justice. Then G&A come along, both brothers, G talks about Gyges and about how becoming invisible means you can do and would do
whatever you want, even if you were a good or bad person.
--G argued that if you could do whatever you want without getting punished then you
would do things; we’re scared of the “reaction” of others, but is that true? That we only do
good things until we take away punishment? You could do whatever you wanted. For
instance, when they took away law in Newfoundland, people went crazy!
-- people are naturally selfish and evil if we could get away with it, therefore G argued that
we should try and be selfish and evil but do it secretly, but appear to be good. That would
be the best of both worlds. Cuz society would love you on the outside but you worried
about yourself. This is what A said as well.
--there are ppl who try to “appear” good and just, which is the best life.
--what about ppl, who do we admire, do admire the really good person who is unsuccessful,
who are walked all over, or don’t you admire the successful ppl who “bent the rules” to get
there, not necessary a bad person, more selfish. This is what A thought.
--A argued that there is no proof of god, but if there was, there is an escape clause,for
instance if you do this pray or go to the church, you will be forgiven (cleansed). Therefore
live an evil life, do ur escape clause, and then ur set for the afterlife. So why not do that? Life
would be perfect, you do what you want! It is a gamble, but at the same time, when you die,
and the truth comes out, it wouldn’t matter because ur dead! HA…
--escape clause is like a license to evil…
--Psychological Egoism: we are naturally selfish, thats the way we are(G&A). Ethical
Egoism: the way we should be.
--Socrates says to counter G&A’s argument that, in regard to ethic egoism, he first says one,
the individual was a micro cause for society, whats good for society is good for the
individual. The individual should be just, so shud society. Why should society be just? Cuz
society is formed when individuals come together with one common goal, and then we
create business, like training, making things so on..Justice is necessary for society to work.
-- but it can only work when ethical things are put in place, like don’t kill, steal.. How can we
have a business or society without rules?
--so therefore its not about being an ethical egoism, but its about being JUST. This his first
--secondly, he talks about a dog who will be friendly to those with things it is familiar with,
same with humans. So the fear of punishment is not why we are good. Its not true, he said
look at the way people behave around the world, human nature has a natural sympathy.
Especially for those things that are close to us. We have a natural empathy.
--David Hum said that ur right there is natural empathy, but its more scientific, it works
with space and time dimension, meaning morality and ethics are based on emotions, you
feel a certain way about things that are good and bad, but it has its rules, we only have to
care about ppl who are close to us. If you do not know the victims, cuz they aren’t close to
you, you don’t care. Businesses are known to do this. Also, societies that are more unjust, is
ideal, it creates new things.
-- watched another clip: The Third Man: Guy living in post-war Europe, hes selling bad
medicine to hospitals, kids die, he doesn’t care tho, he just cares about the profit, he wants
the money. American friend comes by and tells him that hes gonna rat him out, the criminal
says: I don’t have any victims, they are no more than ppl that I am looking at now, they are
not close to us! Its not logical to are about all those ppl. The other point he made was that if you look at societies, the best society is one that is injust and allows creativity. If you have
violence, war, it creates innovation, like Italy when it was in war with itself. On the other
bad, Switzerland only invented the coco clock, they are a just society, all they do is sleep,
they have no motivation. War does not let people sleep, but do things, creative things.
--Rachels explained that selfishness and self-interest are different. There are things that we
do as a “means to an end”. Like going to ETHICS class..ha.It is not always in our self-interest.
--He criticizes psychological egoist, explaining that all the good things you do, it may be
self-interest, but its definitely not you being selfish, cuz you get a good feeling out of
helping someone. If the object is to help someone, you do it, why did you do it? Cuz it’s a
nice thing to do, its not cuz its makes you happy inside. Rachel says there is some self-
interest but not selfishness. That’s what he argued.
-- its rare for someone to say that you wanna help someone cuz you get a good feeling out
--Rachels believes that psychological egoism is wrong basically, it’s the actions you do for
ppl close to you, are you looking out for urself, of just wanting to help them. Ethical egoism
is a person who says that you should be selfish. There is no logical argument that you
should care for others if ur an ethical egoism person. It is very rare, but that is what Rachels
believes, you basically do not care about anyone. In a way, they are not human, to be a
human, you gotta have some empathy.
--Even ppl close to you, you do not care about them, a true ethical egotist, is a psychopath.
--Selfish people destroy each other, who are you going to trust?
-- self-interest and pleasure seeking is also confused as well. You smoke, its not in ur self-
interest, but it gives you pleasure.
--its about characteristics of a person, their virtue.
--it was big among the Greeks.
--4 chief virtues come from Socrates and Plato. They should have wisdom, justice, fortitude,
--Wisdom: when you know you cannot be 100% certain of things, you could always be
wrong, there is much to learn. Ppl who thought they knew everything were called Sophists,
its not wisdom.
--Fortitude: Moral courage. Trying to stick by ur morals.
--Justice: All 4 things together give you justice.
--Temperance: you do not be a pig, you have self-control, more tolerance.
--Other virtues are quoted from Aristotle, he’s a student of Plato. He accepted the 4, but he
believed there were more. For instance, ambition, resourcefulness, devotion…
--Aristotle, as a consequentialist, used the term “eudoumaneai” or human flourishing. He
believed there are 2 types of virtue:
-- intellectual virtue (wisdom, which can be taught)
--moral virtue (what it is to be a good person, that cannot be taught, the only way you
create those is through life experience.)
--For instance, think of an artist, if you wanna be a good piano player, you have to practice,
like a moral virtue. --These 2 virtues is aimed at the Golden Mean: Virtue is between 2 vices. For instance you
have 2 vices, bungee jumping is between foolisheness and being outgoing, the inbetween is
--The disadvantage is that there are no rules and systems; they just give you a bunch of
virtues, that’s it. It is very fuzzy.
--Robert Louden: he believed that the problem with virtue ethics only considers things in
the long run, and ignores short-term things or circumstances. No guideline for things that
happen right now, the only advice you have is “be virtuous”.
--How do you know if someone is virtuous or appears to be virtous? If someone is good and
then does something bad, is it a mistake he made or he now a bad person that he has
--Aristotle believed in being virtuous, but in the modern day, we wanna know if we win or
lose, we do not just wanna be good. If someone tries to be good, there is no guarantee you
will have success.
--Oedipus: he was born and his parents left him to die, some ppl came along and found him,
adopted him, they never told him how he found him or that hes adopted. He goes to a
fortune teller and is told that he will kill his father and has sex with his mother. He runs
away from the fortune teller cuz he is virtuous. He told himself if he stays away from his
parents he won’t hurt them. He runs into a man, kills him, and meets a queen and had sex
with her. They happened to be his parents. In conclusion, even tho you are virtuous, it can
end in tragedy, you can turn out to be evil…
--Utopian: is virtue ethics the same in all cultures? Are all people the same?
--Virtue Ethics: means being a good person, not just doing good actions. But how do you
know if the person is a good person or just acting good or appearing good?
Divine Command Theory
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
A divine command theory incorporates 2 basic claims
1. A god or god approve of or command certain actions
2. The actions that the god or gods approve of or command are morally right because of this
approval or command
Divine command theory is sometimes associated in people's minds with extremists, because
followers of the theory have at times done outrageous things in the name of their gods and their
o Example; In the US, some physicians who performed abortions have been killed by anti-
abortionists who supposed they were "following the word of God."
2 questions should be raised about divine command theory.
o Is such a theory defensible?
o Even if we grant that it is defensible, can its followers be described as responsible moral
agents? The first problem with this theory is that the first claim depends on what a god approves of or
commands but the problem is that it does not stipulate which God?
o People worship many different gods and goddesses and some are quite incompatible with
Plato raised a problem that applies to all religious commands as well as to all commands issued by
authority figures; He asked us to consider the difference between the following 2 statements;
1. God loves/commands/approves of an action because it is good
2. An action is good because god loves/commands/approves of it.
Plato believes that 1) is true and 2) is false. He says we should focus on the reasons that lie
behind the command and act on them, if they are good reasons.
Consider a person who follows a divine command theory. This person acts on commands, just as a
robot acts out a program. If the person does something bad when acting on divine command, such
as killing an innocent human being, then just as will the robot, one might argue, it is not her fault.
Instead, we should look at the fault in the religious document that the person looks to. The
conclusion here is that the person is not at fault, just as the robot isnt'. The person who follows
the command is not a moral agent.
o There is something wrong with this. While the robot is not a moral agent, a person is. The
person has a choice and the choice is she can blindly accept the command or evaluate the
reasons that lie behind the command. In the example above she has simply chosen to be an
irresponsible moral agent.
Can we do the right thing without heeding a divine command? Most philosophers after Plato seem
to think so
o It is not enough simply to behave as a good citizen or good person would behave. To truly
be good, we need to do the right thing for the right reasons.
o We are Responsible moral agents when we try to figure out the reasons that lie behind the
commands, and then by acting on the basis of those reasons.
Euthyphro - Plato
Euthyphro meets Plato in at the King of Archon's Steps and asks him why he's there
o Plato responds by saying that someone has indicted him . The person who indicted him was
o Meletus believes that Plato is the youth by spreading his thoughts to them freely and
preaching to anyone who listens.
o Euthyphro is a fortune-teller but only uses his knowledge sparingly which is why people
probably left him alone
So Plato asks what Euthyphro was doing at the steps
Euthyphro tells Socrates that he's there to prosecute his father for a murder
o Socrates thinks he's crazy and asks that "he must have murdered a relative if he's going to
prosecute his own dad"
o Euthyphro says that it shouldn’t matter if his dad's victim is a relative or a stranger. The act
is punishable regardless of who was killed and his father should be punished. Turns out his
father tied someone up and left them in a ditch because they killed someone and he was
waiting from the King to decide what to do but the killer died in the process.
Euthyphro then says that what is holy is to prosecute those that murder, steal or commit offences
regardless of who it is and that if you decide not to then that is unholy. Zeus put his own father in
bonds for wrongfully gobbling up children so he says that he is doing the same thing.
Socrates then asks Euthyphro not if the act of turning his father in is holy, but rather what
characteristic in life is holy? o Euthyphro responds by saying that What is agreeable to the gods is holy and what is not
agreeable to the gods is unholy.
o Socrates then says that Gods argue with each other and by doing what is holy to one god
may be unholy to another god so you cannot simply do what one god agrees to
The point of the dialogue is that Euthyphro can't substantiate his claim that What is holy is what is
loved by God and we are acting Holy when we do what God asks us to do. Socrates stumps him
The Story of Abraham - The Bible
God appeared to Abraham and said to him to take his son Isaac to a mountain and to offer him up
to God as an offering
So Abraham saddled everything up and took two younger men along with isaac to the mountains.
So Abraham took his son deeper into the mountains. When the reached their point of destination
he tied Isaac to the wood and took the knife to slay his son when an angel appeared
The angel said do not kill your son, For now I know that thou fearest God , seeing thou hast not
withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
Abraham looked up and saw a Ram stuck in the thicket and then offered that up to the lord as an
offering instead. Abraham called that place Jehovahjireh. (the mountain of the God)
God said to Abraham that by offering his only son up to him that we would bless abraham by
multiplying his seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is uopn the sea shore; and
thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.
Abraham in turn had many children and Grandchildren
Lecture - Divine Command Theory
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Plato - Euthyphro
o What is the good?
Is it the case that the good is what god says it is, or what god says is good is good?
Good must stand as a quality independent of itself. Because God is good, then it as a
quality attached to God
It is not an atheist argument but there's something wrong if you say its good because
God says it is
o First we have to think about what the good is, and then if we're believers in God, then we
o It’s a question of where did reason and philosophy come in vs. theology.
Kant was a religious guy and he did not like Divine Command theory because he felt that you
were bypassing the mind.
Reason is something god gives you so you can't just ignore it. Its not saying forget
God, its saying if you really want to be a believer in God, use the tools that he gave
o Thomas Aquinas said philosophy is the handmaid of theology. 12th century
It’s an argument of saying that Prophets are perfect and that you have to trust them.
o Averroes/ibn rushd said put reason first. 11th century.
o Spinoza came about 100 years before Kant (17th century). He's a spanish Jewish Dutch guy.
He said if you're going to believe in Divine Command Theory, what you're doing is believe in
prophets. How should we understand prophets.Spinoza said that he can't choose the prophets
because they look good, but because they have a good mind.
In Greek Religion, the Gods lived on Mount Olympus and people spoke to people on
behalf of the Gods since people couldn't understand them.
When God speaks to a prophet, he expected them to use their mind. The prophets
used their own mind and imagination to interpret God.
Spinoza got in a lot of trouble for this. He was trying to put emphasize on the mind as
being this tool that God meant for you to use
Spinoza wrote a book called theological-political Treatise
o Kant says where is the room for morality? Morality includes reason and free will.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
The concept of justice has both a formal element and a substantive element.
o The formal element is an action, policy, or institution is just when each individual is given his
or her due.
The problem with this is how do we decide who is owed what due? Or how much is
Example; the distribution of organs to people on a waiting list
The distribution of wealth and income
o The substantive element is little agreed upon. The theory holds that all persons have equal
intrinsic worth and that they ought therefore to be treated with equal concern and respect.
This is an egaitarian theory. The theories that hold the itrinsic worth of persons varies
according to one or more of their personal characteristics - most commonly moral merit are
considered non egalitarian
In this case we are not all owed equal concern and respect
John Rawls and Robert Nozick each agree that all persons have an equal moral status and ought to
be treated with equal concern and respect.
o Nevertheless they arrive on different positions on the issue of distribution of wealth and
Rawls holds that we should first secure for each person the most extensive set of basic
rights and liberties, compatible with like rights and liberties for all, and ensure that
offices and positions are made available to all under conditions of fair equality of