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Business ethics ethical theory


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  • 1. BUSINESS ETHICS 2. ETHICAL THEORY 2013/2014 Ana Cláudia Campos 1º Semestre
  • 2. 2.1 Normativity of Ethical Theories 2.2 Traditional Ethics 2.3 Contemporary Ethics
  • 3. 2.1 Normativity of Ethical Theories
  • 4. Ethical theories can be said either descriptive or normative .
  • 5. Ethical Theories Descriptive Normative Describe ethical phenomena Provide general rules and principles of behaviour
  • 6. A descriptive approach to ethics attempts to describe the moral systems of groups or societies. As such it involves empirical research on individuals, groups, and societies in order to uncover moral beliefs.
  • 7. Research Topics Covered by Descriptive Ethics • Values • Ethical ideals • Moral virtues • Wrong and right actions and behaviours • Moral systems (relativism)…
  • 8. Disciplines Related to the Study of Descriptive Ethics • Psychology • Biology • Sociology • Anthropology • Cultural Studies…
  • 9. Ethical theories are said to be normative if they propose “to prescribe the morally correct way of acting”. (Crane & Matten, 2010)
  • 10. Normative theories of ethics or «moral theories» are meant to help us figure out what actions are right and wrong. (Gray, 2010) []
  • 11. “Ethical theories are the rules and principles that determine right and wrong for a given situation”. (Crane & Matten, 2010)
  • 12. Normative ethical theories attempt to answer two main questions: (1) What is the good life for men? (2) How ought men to behave?
  • 13. Normative ethical theories might be interpreted as answers to requests for advice on how to deal with aspects of daily living
  • 14. 2.2 Traditional Ethics
  • 15. Traditional ethical theories developed mainly in Europe due to the work of many philosophers, from ancient times until modernity (e.g.: Aristotle, Epicurus, Seneca, J. Locke, A. Smith, J. Stuart-Mill…)
  • 16. “These traditional theories have their origins in modernism, which emerged roughly during the 18th century Enlightenment era. ‘Modern’ thinkers strove for a rational, scientific explanation of the world and aimed at comprehensive, inclusive, theoretically coherent theories to explain nature, man, and society” (Crane and Matten, 2010)
  • 17. Traditional ethical theories are the normative theories adopting an absolutist point of view on ethics (ethical absolutism)
  • 18. Ethical Absolutism There are eternal, universally applicable moral principles to concrete situations and contexts. Right and wrong are objective qualities we can rationally determine in human actions, and so, as such, they exist outside individuals
  • 19. Traditional Ethical Theories Consequentialists Utilitarianism Egoism Non-consequentialists Hedonism Deontology (Kant, Ross) Agent’s Virtue (Aristotle)
  • 20. Motivation/Principles/ Duties Non-consequentialist ethics Action Outcomes Consequentialist ethics p. 97
  • 21. Consequentialist Ethical Theory An ethical theory which bases moral judgement on the outcomes of an action is called Consequentialist (or Teleological).
  • 22. General Principle Of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one with the best overall consequences (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • 23. Corollaries Whether an act is right or wrong depends only on the results of that act; The more good consequences an act produces, the better or more right that act is; A person should choose the action that maximizes good consequences People should live so as to maximize good consequences
  • 24. Utilitarianism An action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good/happiness for the greatest amount of people affected by the action (Crane & Matten, 2010)
  • 25. “After assessing as best we can the likely results of each action, not just in the short term but in the long run as well, we are to choose the course of conduct that brings about the greatest net happiness” (Shaw, 2011)
  • 26. From an utilitarian point of view, GOOD/HAPPINESS may be understood as: Freedom Knowledge Life Pleasure Political Rights …
  • 27. Main Corollaries The rightness or wrongness of an action is separated from the goodness or badness of the agent (worth of action ≠ worth of agent) The right moral action is the one that maximizes the good The general principle of utility does not provide a rule to decide on the moral worth of an action in face of actual consequences and foreseen consequences, except that we should do what we have most reason to believe will bring about the best consequences of the known available alternatives
  • 28. Act Utilitarianism “The measure of the value of an act is the amount by which it increases general utility or happiness. An act is to be preferred to its alternatives according to the extent of the increase it achieves, compared to the extent the alternatives would achieve. An action is thus good or bad in proportion to the amount it increases (or diminishes) general happiness, compared to the amount that could have been achieved by acting differently. Act utilitarianism is distinctive not only in the stress on utility, but in the fact that each individual action is the primary object of ethical evaluation.”
  • 29. Rule Utilitarianism “It maintains that the correct principles of right and wrong are those that would maximize happiness if society adopted them. Rule utilitarianism applies the utilitarian standard not directly to individual actions but rather to the choice of the moral principles that are to guide individual action.” (Shaw, 2011)
  • 30. Prominent Proponents J. Bentham (1748-1832) J. Stuart-Mill (1806-1873)
  • 31. Egoism The doctrine according to which the correct moral action is the one that meets the self-interest of individuals.
  • 32. Main Corollary The most important moral principle is the principle of self-interest, personal advantage or gain
  • 33. Moral egoism is based on psychological egoism, behaviour according is to motivated which by all human self-interest (=welfare, well-being). Self-interest is understood as either: • one’s desire (self-regarding / not selfregarding) or • possession of states independently of being desired (virtue, knowledge, peace…)
  • 34. Moral egoists do not necessarily claim: that all people should be egoists and act egoistically (=every individual should pursue self-interest) that seeking pleasure, doing harm to others, behaving disonestly and so on are good things in themselves but only as far as doing so brings us any kind of personal advantage
  • 35. Prominent Proponents H. Sidgwick (1838 -1900) A. Rand (1905-1982) F. Nietzsche (1844 -1900)
  • 36. Hedonism The doctrine that pleasure is the sole good. (…) Men not only in fact seek pleasure, but further they ought to do so since pleasure alone is good. (…) (Popkin & Stroll, 1956)
  • 37. Main Corollaries To say "all pleasure is intrinsically good" is not to say "all pleasure is good, simply." Though pleasure is the only intrinsically and ultimate good, it is not the only thing desirable, other things are desirable at least as a means to something (peace, money, education…) Some pleasures are not good because they lead to pain instead of pleasure (taking drugs, getting drunk, making fun of other people…)
  • 38. Prominent Proponents Epicurus (341BC - 270BC) Aristippus of Cyrene (435BC – 356 BC)
  • 39. Non-consequentialist Ethical Theory Any ethical theory which bases moral judgement not on the outcomes (consequences) of an action but on its principle (intrinsic properties) or on the agent’s character.
  • 40. Nonconsequentialist Deontology (Kant, Ross) Agent’s Virtue (Aristotle)
  • 41. Deontology An ethical theory which bases moral judgement on the moral principle (duty) underlying the action, and thus the action’s intrinsic features, is called Deontological.
  • 42. Main Corollaries Morality is a matter of duty, compliance to a moral law Whether something is right or wrong doesn’t depend on its consequences Actions are right or wrong in themselves We have duties regarding our own actions
  • 43. The ethical theories proposed by I. Kant and W. D. Ross are called a deontological philosophies because they assume the moral value of an action to depend on the agent’s intention relative to it (namely, complying to the moral principle) rather than its consequences.
  • 44. Prominent Proponents I. Kant (1784-1804) W. D. Ross (1877-1971)
  • 45. “Kant believed that moral reasoning is not based on factual knowledge and that the results of our actions do not determine whether they are right or wrong.” (Shaw, 2011)
  • 46. According to Kant, human action is motivated either by reason or happiness So morality depends either on reason or happiness Happiness is conditional because it differs from individual to individual and it can be either good or bad
  • 47. Reason alone is universal, thus unconditional, so morality must be based on reason in order to become truly universal Kant named this moral universal reason “the Good Will” (= the power of rational moral choice)
  • 48. The Good Will is good because it motivates us to act out of duty, not of inclination, desire or personal interest/gain The Good Will makes us act according to the moral law, and in order to know it we must check if it conforms to the Categorical Imperative.
  • 49. The CI is imperative because it is a command. It commands us to exercise our wills in a particular way, not to perform some action or other. The CI is categorical in virtue of applying to us unconditionally, or simply because we possess rational wills, without reference to any ends that we might or might not have. It does not apply to us on the condition that we have antecedently adopted some goal for ourselves.
  • 50. Kant’s Categorical Imperative Formula of Universal Law: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to secure through your will a universal law of nature" Formula of Humanity: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only" Formula of Autonomy: “Act as if you were through your maxims a law making member of a kingdom of ends."
  • 51. According to W. D. Ross, there are several prima facie duties that we can use to determine what, concretely, we ought to do. A prima facie duty is a duty that is obligatory other things equal, that is, unless it is overridden by another duty or duties. Where there is a prima facie duty to do something, there is at least a fairly strong moral reason in favor of doing it.
  • 52. An example of a prima facie duty is the duty to keep promises. "Unless stronger moral considerations override, one ought to keep a promise made.“ By contrast with prima facie duties, our actual or concrete duty is the duty we should perform in the particular situation of choice. Whatever one's actual duty is, one is morally bound to perform it.
  • 53. Ross’s Prima Facie Duties (The Right and the Good, 1930) Fidelity: obligation to keep a promise Reparation: obligation to repair the harm Gratitude: obligation to recognize a granted benefit and express it Justice: obligation to fairly distribute the good Beneficence: obligation to do good to someone Self-improvement: obligation to make yourself a better person Non-maleficence: obligation to not harm anyone
  • 54. The Agent’s Virtue According to a Virtue Theory, the central moral concept is that of the morally good character or morally good disposition. It analyzes the rightness or wrongness of individual choices indirectly in terms of the character or dispositions of the agent making the choices
  • 55. “Virtue ethics contends that morally correct actions are those undertaken by actors with virtuous characters. Therefore, the formation of a virtuous character is the first step towards morally correct behaviour.” (Crane & Matten, 2010)
  • 56. Main Corollaries Moral virtue is simply a matter of performing well in the function of being human Practice is very important to achieve excellence The motivation for being good is not based in a divine legislator or a set of moral laws but rather in the same kind of perception of excellence that might be found in anything else that exists to perform a function
  • 57. We can only be held responsible for actions we perform voluntarily and not for cases involving physical compulsion or ignorance. The best measure of moral judgment is choice, because choice is made voluntarily by means of rational deliberation. People always choose to aim at the good, but they’re often ignorant of what is good and so aim at some apparent good instead, which is in fact a vice.
  • 58. Aristotle (384 BCE – 322 BCE) "So it follows, since virtue of character itself is a mean state and always concerned with pleasures and pains, while vice lies in excess and deficiency, and has to do with the same things as virtue, that virtue is the state of the character which chooses the mean, relative to us in things pleasant and unpleasant…" (Eudemian Ethics, Book II, Chapter 10)
  • 59. Virtue is, in a moral sense, a product of habit Virtue is a mean state or a middle ground between two other states, one involving excess and the other deficiency The middle ground that virtue encompasses is representative of an individual's ideas of pleasure and pain A portion of this is inherited naturally and another portion is expectation towards punishment.
  • 60. “According to Aristotle's ethical theory, the virtuous person exhibits the joint excellence of reason and of character. The virtuous person not only knows what the good thing to do is, she is also emotionally attached to it. In addition, these two excellences, or virtues, are intimately connected, so that the one cannot be had without the other.”
  • 61. 2.3 Contemporary Ethics
  • 62. Contemporary ethical theories and approaches developed mainly in the western world from early 20th century on
  • 63. These new approaches to ethical thinking and theorizing mirror changes in how people think about societies and their relations with cultural/intellectual achievements, such as philosophical thinking…..
  • 64. Since scientists and philosophers started criticizing modernist views on knowledge, scientific, universal truths, and human progress based on reason, the path was open to alternative ways of thinking about ethics…
  • 65. Traditional ethics have been considered: Too abstract, objective and impersonal Too rational Too reductionist Too imperialist
  • 66. Contemporary Ethical Theories Ethical Relativism Postmodern Ethics Analytical Ethics Others …
  • 67. Ethical Relativism “The theory according to which right and wrong are determined by what one’s society says is right and wrong. (…) For the ethical relativist there is no absolute ethical standard independent of cultural context, no criterion of right and wrong by which to judge other than that of particular societies. In short, what morality requires is relative to society.” (Shaw, 2011)
  • 68. “Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. (…) The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own. If ethical relativism is correct, there can be no common framework for resolving moral disputes or for reaching agreement on ethical matters among members of different societies.”
  • 69. Some problems with ethical relativism: It undermines any moral criticism of the practices of other societies as long as their actions conform to their own standards; There is no such thing as ethical progress: although moralities can change, they cannot get better or worse; It makes no sense for people to criticize principles or practices accepted by their own society; whatever a society takes to be right really is right for it; reformers or minorities can never be right in moral matters (Shaw, 2011)
  • 70. Postmodern Ethics “Postmodern ethics is an approach that locates morality beyond the sphere of rationality in an emotional ‘moral impulse’ towards others. It encourages individual actors to question everyday practices and rules, and to listen to and follow their emotions, inner convictions, and ‘gut feelings’ about what they think is right and wrong in a particular situation”. (Crane & Matten, 2010)
  • 71. Postmodern ethics emphasize the following in terms of ethical reasoning and analysis: Holistic approach: in ethical judgement and decision making, there is no separation between private and professional realms Examples rather than principles: ethical reasoning is not embodied in rules and principles but in people’s experiences, narratives and inner convictions Think local, act local: ethics is about local rules applicable to single issues and contexts Preliminary character: since ethical decisions go far beyond rationality, ethical reasoning is a constant learning process
  • 72. Analytical Ethics “Analytical approaches to ethics have concentrated on meta-ethics. They tend (…) not to answer moral questions or to address substantive moral problems directly but rather to be concerned with the status of ethical judgements and the character of moral reasoning.”
  • 73. “A term for any analysis of moral concepts, but as a distinct approach it starts with G. E. Moore 's Principia Ethica (1913). It claims that the fundamental task of ethics is not to discuss substantive moral questions and to seek solutions for them, but rather to examine the meaning of moral terms such as “good”, “ duty”, “right”, “ought ” and to make them as clear and precise as possible.” 4051067952_ss1-116
  • 74. “It then evolved into the linguistic analysis of moral judgments, their types and their functions. This development was represented by Ayer 's account of morality, Stevenson 's emotivism , and Hare 's prescriptivism…”
  • 75. “Another dimension of analytic ethics is to examine moral reasoning and the basis for distinguishing moral judgments from other value judgments. This is represented especially in the work of Stephen Toulmin. Analytic ethics can be viewed as synonymous with metaethics . In the 1960s, as the distinction between metaethics and normative ethics came into question, analytic ethics as a distinctive approach also lost favor. Many moral philosophers now believe that ethics should investigate both moral terms and moral questions.”
  • 76. Others… Feminist ethics (Maier, 1997, Borgerson, 2007) Ethics of discourse (Habermas, 1990) Contemporary virtue ethics (MacIntyre, 1984)
  • 77. Further Readings Blackburn, S. (2009). Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press Blackburn, S. (2003). Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics, Oxford University Press Borgerson, J. L. (2007). On the Harmony of Feminist Ethics and Business Ethics, Business and Society Review , 112(4), 477–509 Copp, D. (ed.) (2006). The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory, Oxford University Press David Gottlieb, P. (2009). The Virtue of Aristotle's Ethics, Cambridge UP Hare, R. (1952). The Language of Morals, Oxford Maier, M. (1997). Gender Equity, Organizational Transformation and Challenger, Journal of Business Ethics, 16(9), 943-962 Russell, D.C. (ed.) (2013). The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics , Cambridge University Press Singer, P. (1979). Practical Ethics, Cambridge