PHIL3313Syllabus - PHIL 3313/ 01: Business Ethics Spring...

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Spring Semester 2008 MW 5:25 – 6:40 Moody Hall 302 Dr. Peter Wake Office: Andre 207 Office hours: Monday, 3:30-4:30; Tues., 2:00-3:00; Weds., 3:30-4:30; Thurs., 2:00-3:00; by appointment. Phone: 512.428.1281; e-mail: COURSE DESCRIPTION What is ‘business ethics’? The first term, ‘business,’ is at once so familiar and so abstract that it has all but become meaningless. What we now call, in a very general way, ‘business’ has at its core the idea of exchange and we will focus on this idea in order to help guide our thinking on the question of ‘business ethic.’ In order to adequately understand and evaluate the system of exchange in which we now live, and to determine how we ought to act within it, we must first consider how it came into being in the first place. Thus, an initial goal of the course will be to examine the history of the different systems of exchange that have existed in Western society and that have given rise to the one that we now find ourselves in. A second goal will be to find the underlying values inherent in the different systems of exchange that we will investigate. This is primarily a question of ethics. “Ethics” can be very broad defined as that branch of the study of philosophy concerned with human actions and the rational evaluation and justification of them. In light of the rational evaluation of our practices of exchange , we will introduce some of the most influential ethical theories in the Western philosophical tradition, including Aristotelian virtue ethics, Kantian deontological ethics and utilitarianism. We will not look at these theories in abstraction, but rather in relation to the specific historical period and economic system in which they arose. Central among the various questions we will be considering are these: What is the ultimately purpose of exchanging goods? Are there things that should not be objects of commercial exchange? Should there be rules that guide how we exchange goods and services and if so, what are they? Another way of posing this question is to ask, at a more general level, what is the proper measure of wealth? It is not difficult to imagine the problems of having too little wealth, but can we ever have too much and if so, what is the measure that allows us to determine this? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, how do we explain and justify economic inequality? In order to focus our investigation, we will read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation throughout the semester as a kind of extended case study of the development of the fast food industry, both nationally and internationally, and the social costs and benefits associated with it. This industry will, in effect, stand as emblematic of the economic world in which we live. TEXTS
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PHIL3313Syllabus - PHIL 3313/ 01: Business Ethics Spring...

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