The Infelicities of Business Ethics in the Third World

Business Ethics Quarterly 9 (3):421-438 (1999)
Abstract
In a recent paper Allen Buchanan makes a basic distinction between two types of ethical problems which arise in business: “genuine ethical dilemmas, in which the problem is to discover what one ought to do, when two or more valid ethical duties (or values orprinciples) conflict, and compliance problems, which occur when one knows what one’s moral obligations are, but experiences difficulty in fulfilling them due to pressures of self-interest or loyalty to group or organization.” Buchanan argues that most business ethicists believe that this simple dichotomy is exhaustive. He claims it is not and argues that there is a third area of concern that involves perfecting imperfect duties, or coming to “have definite ethical duties, where before there were at best vague ethical goals.” However, I wish to argue that there is a further area of concern in business ethics and this area does not involve deciding between competing moral principles, values etc, attempting to comply with known principles, or imparting determinate content to vague, non-specific imperfect principles of obligation (the subject of Buchanan’s recent paper). This sort of problem occurs frequently in the third world in circumstances in which the agent entirely fails to recognize the normative structure that underpins the considered options
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