158 By separating out the relevant aspects of an organization, then it may be possible to use ethical techniques. Thus, for those persons who are considering how an organization treats its employees, the question would be “Are the internal operations of the organization ethical?”. On the other hand, if the interest is focused on what the organization does for society, the question would be “Are the ultimate goals of the organization ethical?”. Under such an approach, one could look at the ultimate ends of strict and the lax corporations. Both are in operation to make profits for their shareholders, a goal that is both legal and generally accepted as ethical or at least ethically neutral. Thus, it could be meaningful to say that both entities have ethical ends. Along the same lines, one could examine the ultimate ends of the pirates and the Hood organization and discern that helping the poor is laudatory, but attacking and commandeering ships for personal gain is not. On its own, this does not necessarily answer the questions set forth in Part I about corporate knowledge or corporate intent. It does, however, pose the questions so that meaningful progress is possible. What Ethical Standards Can Be Applied To Aspects of the Organization? Even if the standards will be applied individually to each aspect of the organization, there still remains the issue of the standards to be applied. Dissecting the aspects of an organization may not answer the question, but it does make answering easier. Thus, in answering some questions, using ethical systems derived for individuals may be plausible. For example, there are some ultimate ends that individuals have that can never be justified. No one really asks whether a genocidal tyrant gives to charity or is good to his or her family. The inquiry stops with articulation of the ends themselves. Here, at least, there can be a direct application of traditional ethical theory. Some ends are inherently immoral whether individual or organizational. Some techniques – intermediate ends – are susceptible to that analysis as well. For example, it does not matter whether an individual or an organization kills poor children to harvest their organs; that is immoral even if the goal is to help individuals needing transplants. On the other hand, when a moral judgment requires evaluation of intent, the comparison breaks down. Organizations simply do not have intent in the way that individuals do. As noted above, trying to conjure up a simulacrum for organizations – whether culture, character, ethos, or the like – fails. A mercenary organization, for example, cannot be characterized as brave or cowardly. To ask any question framed in those terms cannot be meaningfully answered. Instead, it may have brave or cowardly members whose actions have implications for the employer of the mercenary organization. This means that, for at least some possible questions, the use of classical ethical approaches must be rejected by rejecting the question sought to be answered.
- Summer '14
- Ethics, criminal law, Corporate Criminal Liability