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Chapter 1

Philosophy 2074F/G Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Fiduciary, Relativism, Consequentialism

Course Code
PHIL 2074F/G
Julie Ponesse

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Business Ethics – Chapter 1 Notes
-Business ethics is about how we conduct our business affairs, form the basest fraud to
their highest levels of excellence.
-It is about individuals and the institutions with which they deal
-Expectations and requirements – including the social and economic requirements – of
What Is Ethics?
-Aristotle believes that ethical reasoning is not a matter of applying the appropriate
algorithm to a situation and mechanically calculating the correct moral result.
For Aristotle, ethical reasoning is more subtle, less precise, often more difficult
-Not all people think like Aristotle, some put more emphasis on the formation of moral
-Godfather example  The movie begins with a disgusting amount of violence, we come
to realize that these are the internal rules of “the Family”
We come to see that although these rules are contrary to society’s, they make
sense in their own kind of way
What we are to understand from the movie, especially the last scene where the
antihero Michael goes to his nephew’s baptism at the church while his henchmen
kill the rivals to gain supremacy in the family, is that the Mafia has its own rules –
and these are a dark parallel to the ethical values of the wider society
Is just any system of binding rules norms, and duties a system of ethics? No
-Cultural Relativism: The view that behaviors and values are relative to particular
cultures; that behaviors are dependent on the accepted norms of the particular culture or
society in which they take place
Businesses must adopt to the norms and practices of the cultures in which it
What is unethical in Canada might be good manners in one of our trading partners
-Every culture or society around the world has their own idea of ethics, we cannot decide
if one is superior, we cannot valuate them either.
It is unfair to judge any culture because we don’t know who is right or wrong, we
must appreciate from a far and adopt them if we come close

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Defining Ethics
-The term “ethics” is from ancient Greece
Ethikos: the authority of custom and tradition
Mos: We derive the terms “moral”, “mores”, and “morale” from this
-Ethics and mores originally referred to the customs, habits of life, or traditions of a
-Ethical Relativism: The view that moral values are relative to particular environments;
moral behaviors are dependent on the accepted ethical norms of the particular culture,
society, or environment in which they take place
-We have no right to condemn the customs of the Mafia or apartheid as we do to
condemn any foreign system of behavior
-We can only condemn them in terms of our own moral system, but we should not and
cannot insist that others who do no share our values listen to our complaints
-German Philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel distinguished between Ethics
and morals:
Ethics are the customary norms and ways of behaving in a society, and morality is
a reflection on those norms and the deliberate generation and adoption of
principles that may well modify them
The ethics of a particular culture might require reverence for older people or
assign special responsibilities to the oldest son
Examples of moral thinking would be the growth in recognition of human rights
and the greater sensitivity to suffering in animals
In this sense, then, morality is the missing part of ethics that as modern people,
rather than as villagers regulated by custom and tradition, we often take for
-We can only offer a minimalist description that gives only the bare bones of what must
be involved in something being a moral concern.
Considering something ethically requires that one go outside, or beyond, one’s
self-interest alone in reaching a decision – moral opinions must be impartial
Ethical judgments must be able to be universalized – must apply to everyone
when in similar circumstances

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Ethical opinions must be able to be defended with reasons – avoids biases (reason
can’t be because you prefer it this way etc…)
Ethical or moral opinions are non-negotiable, not subject to vote  Has to be about
arrived at through reason, not just a majority
Moral opinions are centrally “action-guiding) – centrally concerned with behavior
Elements in Moral Thinking – Broad Strokes
-When we appreciate a problem as a moral problem, it involves consideration of rules
and also consideration of achieving outcomes or consequences of our actions or decision
i.e. the golden rule The maxim accepted by the vast majority, if not all, of the
world’s cultures and religions that states one should treat others as one would like
other to treat oneself
i.e. utilitarianism The contention that the greatest good comes from choosing
the alternative that provides the greatest aggregate level of satisfaction
-Most ethical dilemmas and serious ethical concerns involve clashes between different
types of considerations
Ethical Dilemma: A situation involving the conflict between moral imperatives
where to comply with one necessitates the transgression of the other
For instance, the ethical requirements that come into play for an employee or
professional or for someone in a role of any kind are things that require
independence, interest of the client, interest of the profession, loyalty to the firm,
and so on
oThese considerations, as well, can conflict with regard to ethical rules and
ethical outcomes
In facing and dealing with an ethical issue, we recognize different types of moral
considerations at work – here are a few:
oWhat does truth-telling require?
oWhat about a promise I made to a person yesterday?
oWhat course of action will benefit the most people in this situation?
oWould the course of action I elect be fair?
oWhat is required by my remaining independent in the advice that I give?
There is no mechanical or formulaic recipe for coming to a resolution in many
cases  *What is required is good judgment
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