SSG_Chapter1 - This chapter explores the nature of ethical...

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Business Ethics, Canadian Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 This chapter explores the nature of ethical reasoning in business. The practice of business gives rise to many moral issues. Moral evaluation of these issues requires more than intuition; it requires tools of evaluation. And this is just what the first part of this chapter endeavors to provide. Accordingly, the chapter begins with the question: What is ethics? What emerges early on is that ethics should not be defined as mere compliance with rules, customs, laws and etiquette; ethics goes to the heart of our daily lives and concerns nothing less than how we should live our lives. Some have argued that there is no one right way, that what is right is always relative to a particular context or environment. Others disagree, contending that moral rightness is much more objective, and that what is morally right cannot be decided in advance but depends instead on an evaluation of consequences. For oth- ers still, moral rightness is a matter of doing one’s duty, of doing the right thing simply because it is right, regardless of consequences. Having examined these three different and competing ethical the- ories more formally known as relativism, utilitarianism and deontology and having also examined top-down and bottom-up approaches to ethics, including the approach known as reflective equilib- rium, the authors move on to discuss virtue ethics. Here we find a much different approach to moral rightness. In fact, strictly speaking, on this approach an approach dating back to antiquity and Ar- istotle ethics is less about evaluating right and wrong and dealing with moral problems by applying
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Business Ethics, Canadian Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 the correct theory or algorithm and more about character traits. Thus for Aristotle good traits are called virtues and bad ones vices, and ethics has to do with moral character. Following this the dis- cussion turns to moral reasoning within business. In thinking through ways of answering the question “What should I do?” the authors devote a section to “Requisite Considerations for Justifi able Deci- sion- Making,” suggesting that an ethical decision -making model for organizations involves a set of “systematically organized trigger questions” designed to assist the decision -maker navigate perceived moral problems. The remainder of the chapter addresses key philosophical questions faced by busi- ness: “Do businesses have social responsibilities” and “How much information are businesses obl i- gated to disclose in selling a product?” Milton Friedman’s now famous contention that corporations do not have social responsibilities is critically evaluated, and it is suggested that, while self interest may be what motivates market exchanges, in the final analysis the efficiency of these exchanges and the well being of the business world more generally requires ethical behavior and conduct. In short: “good ethics is good business.” absolutism the view that there exists a universally correct moral position (p. 23)
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