Ethics – a) philosophical study of morality; b) the discipline that examines one's moral standards or the
moral standards of society.
Ethics is a kind of investigation, and includes both the activity of investigating as well as the results of
that investigation, whereas morality is the subject matter that ethics investigates. In a way, ethics is both
a normative study and a descriptive study. We study ethics to see how and why people behave the way
they do (descriptive). However, I hope that by the end of the semester you will have examined your
beliefs and values so that you can evaluate (possibly re-shape) your ethical framework so that you have
a normative means of evaluating decisions.
Morality - the standards that individuals within a society have about what is right and wrong, good and
Business ethics - a specialized study of moral right and wrong which concentrates on moral standards as
they apply to business policies, institutions, and behavior.
Teleological theories - a category of moral philosophies that bases decision on the anticipated
consequences of actions, the "hoped-for" outcomes.
Deontological theories - a category of moral philosophies that bases decisions on certain rules or duties
one holds as foundational rather than consequences.
Character-based theories - a category of moral philosophies that focuses on the value system and virtues
of a person rather than the actions a person takes or the reasons for those actions
Where do people get their ideas about what is right and wrong?
As I mentioned in the Welcome above, people develop their value system pretty early on in life. By the time you
get to college, your value system is well ingrained and perhaps you are not even aware of it. When faced with
an ethical dilemma, you probably intuitively decide what the “right” course of action is rather than sitting down
and going through a formal ethical decisions making process. So where did this value system come from? You
could probably list a number of influences, which would include the following:
parents and family members who shaped your behavior and beliefs
teachers, especially those in the early years of your life
pastors, Sunday school teachers, or other influential adults as you were growing up
friends who began to be more important in your thinking than your parents as you got older
society in general as you observed behavior and outcomes on television, movies, athletics, and other
crises of various types can sometimes result in changes in your belief system
As Boatright suggests, business decisions are informed by three primary forces: economic, legal, and moral.
Further, the moral influences among people in the business world come from four areas: personal beliefs,
professional standards, corporate culture, and societal influences. Consider the following scenario of an
accountant facing a challenging decision. The accountant might discover some questionable practices in the