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Business; Ethical Theory.docx

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Philosophy 2074F/G
Michael Herbert

ETHICAL THEORY AND BUSINESS PRACTICE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS AND PROBLEMS  Morality is concerned with social practices defining right and wrong. These practices – together with other kinds of customs, rules and mores – are transmitted within cultures and institutions from generation to generation  Morality cannot be purely a personal policy or code  Morality consists of what persons ought to do in order to conform to society’s norms of behavior whereas ethical theory concerns the philosophical reasons for and against aspects of social morality. Usually the latter effort centers on justification  Self interest and good ethics generally coincide, because it is usually in one’s interest to act morally  Law is the public’s agency for translating morality into explicit social guidelines and practices and for stipulating punishments for offenses  The courts have often been accused of causing moral inequities through court judgments rendered against corporations  If something is legal, it is not necessarily moral; if something is illegal, it is not necessarily immoral  Ethicists have typically judged appeals to conscience alone as insufficient and untrustworthy for ethical judgement  Consciences vary radically from person to person and time to time; moreover they are often altered by circumstance, religious belief, childhood and training APPROACHES TO THE STUDY  Descriptive approach or the scientific study of ethics. Factual description and explanation of moral behaviour and beliefs  Conceptual study of significant terms in ethics  Crucial terms in business ethics such as liability, deception, corporate intention and stakeholder can be given this same kind of careful conceptual attention  The third approach, normative (prescriptive) ethics, is a prescriptive study attempting to formulate and defend basic moral norms  Principles of normative ethics are commonly used to treat specific moral problems is contingent  Moral rightness is contingent upon the cultural beliefs, and that the concepts of rightness and wrongness are meaningless apart from the specific historical and cultural contexts in which they arise  Ethical theorists have tended to reject relativism  Two cultures may agree about the basic principles of morality yet disagree about how to implement those principles in particular situations  In many moral controversies, people seem to differ only because they have different factual beliefs  Important to distinguish relativism of judgements from relativism of standards ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENTS  A fundamental axiom of successful negotiation is reason and be open to reason. The axiom holds for moral discussion as well as for many other disagreement  Psychological egoism is the view that everyone is always motivated to act in his or her perceived self interest  Normative ethics appears to presuppose that people ought to behave in accordance with the demands of morality, whether or not such behaviour promotes their own interests  Psychologists have shown that humans act on a variety of motives  Egoists maintain that no matter how self sacrificing one’s behavior may at times seem, the desire behind the action is self regarding ETHICAL EGOISM  Ethical egoism is a theory stating that the supreme principle of conduct is to promote one’s well being above everyone elses’s  Ethical egoism is a normative theory about what people ought to do, according to ethical egoism, people always ought to act on the basis of self-interest  Any clever person will realize that she or he has no moral obligations to others besides those obligations she or he voluntarily assumes because it is in one’s own interest to agree to abide by them  No one is under an obligation to obey the law, fulfill contracts or tell the truth. These obligations exist only because one assumes them, and one ought to assume them only as long as doing so promotes one’s own interest  Egoists do not care about the welfare of others unless it affects their welfare, and this desire for person well-being alone motivates acceptance of the conventional rules of morality  Although global capitalism can generate significant benefits, the ability to generate many of those benefits presumes that certain regulatory controls are in place in the nations in which business is conduct NORMATIVE ETHICAL THEORY  Acceptability of a moral standard is determined by prevailing practices in business or by authoritative, profession-generated documents such as codes  Mill sees the purpose of morality as tapping natural human sympathies to benefit others while controlling unsympathetic attitudes that cause harm to others  The means to maximization is efficiency, a goal that persons in business find congenial, because it is highly prized throughout the economic sector  A second essential feature of the utilitarian theory is a theory of the good, it is valuable strictly as a means to something else  To maximize the utility of all persons affects by an action or a policy is to maximize the utility of the aggregate group  A third essential feature of utilitarianism is its commitment to the measurement and comparison of goods  An act utilitarian argues that in all situations one ought to perform the act that leads to the greatest good for the greatest number  Rule utilitarians however reserve a more significant place for rules, which they do not regard as expendable on grounds that utility is maximized in a particular circumstance  Rule utilitarians hold that rules have a central position in morality that cannot be compromised by the demands of particular situations  Utilitarians acknowledge that accurate measurements of others’ goods or preferences can seldom be provided because of limited knowledge  Rule utilitarians maintain that the criticisms of utili
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