Lecture 2 v2

Lecture 2 v2 - eHandout Business & Professional Ethics...

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e Handout Lecture 2 v.2 1 This Lecture Focuses on “The Three Myths“ of Business and Business Ethics, and Sketches Three Ethical Theories (Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics) Before we discuss ethical theories in our course, let’s take a moment to go over what I consider to be the three most prevalent and most pernicious myths of business, whether the small business or the large multi national business (corporation). These three myths are: 1. “Business ethics” is an oxymoron; 2. Business is about maximizing profit; and 3. The public and the private are separate realms. In some ways, these three myths feed off of each other, as I will discuss further in a moment. Let’s have a look at the first myth, that “’business ethics’ is an oxymoron.” Why is this a myth, a common view of business that is not quite based upon a proper understanding of the facts? Well, the answer to this requires that we step back from the common view, the common dogma, and look at other facts. Business is part of human culture and society . As such, it is obliged to follow norms of conduct. The idea that “business ethics” is an oxymoron really aids and abets the myth that business and the rest of culture can be separated, with the former carried out in a fictional non moral or amoral public space separate and apart from our lives as sons, daughters, husbands, wives etc. Further, business has a huge impact on other spheres of our lives. We don’t take the position that “sexual ethics” or “environmental ethics” are oxymorons. We have legitimate concerns about how sexual practices are undertaken and about how we impact the environment, because what we do and how we do it in these areas of life affect others , and it is the issue of how one person’s conduct affects another person or other persons that is at the heart of ethics. It is probably even more true that, in our commercial lives, what we do affects others, for better or worse. We just don’t always get to see how in our ordinary or daily lives, but in this course we will get to see how. The myth that “business ethics” is an oxymoron links up with our third myth, i.e. that the public and the private are separate realms – realms separated by an inviolable, invisible wall, as we will see. But the point about the first myth is that no part of human culture and society can be devoid of ethical considerations. It seems clever to think of business as driven by more “primal” considerations, such as self preservation and self interest, and it is somewhat tenable to look at business this way. But isn’t ethics often about constraining our “primal” drives, considerations and motives , including our drive for self preservation, when these drives lead us to violate important principles and social values? If business
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e Handout Lecture 2 v.2 2 is seen as somehow more purely or directly in touch with those drives, considerations and motives, all
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Lecture 2 v2 - eHandout Business & Professional Ethics...

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