Rudyard Kipling famously penned, “East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” His poetic line suggests that Eastern and Western cultures are irreconcilably different and that their members engage in fundamentally incommensurable ethical practices. This paper argues that differing cultures do not necessarily operate by incommensurable moral principles. On the contrary, if we adopt a virtue ethics perspective, we discover that East and West are always meeting because their virtues share a natural basis and structure. This (...) article sketches the rudiments of what a universal virtue ethic might look like. Such an ethic is especially relevant and valuable in this era of global business. (shrink)
The number of corporate apologies has increased dramatically during the past decade. This article delves into the ethics of apologies offered by chief executive officers (CEOs). It examines ways in which public apologies on the part of a representative (CEO) of a corporate body (the firm) differ from both private, interpersonal apologies, on the one hand, and nation-state/collective apologies, on the other. The article then seeks to ground ethically desirable elements of a corporate apology in the nature or essence of (...) the corporate apology itself. It explores the largely ignored roles played by the speaker’s ethos and audience pathos in genuine or ethical apologies and suggests that attention needs to be paid to the problems posed by “role contamination,” context, and other overlooked factors. The reception by the actual audience of a given apology is a highly contingent matter. Ethicists should concentrate, therefore, on what makes a proffered apology, in principle, trustworthy and not merely efficacious for a given audience. (shrink)
The recent financial meltdown in the US mortgage markets and the ongoing budgetary crises in Europe suggest that we are at an economic and ethical crossroads. What has caused the problems? Do we need to rethink in some fundamental way our ethical notions and some of our practices? These questions clearly are not separable, for, as I shall argue, some of our ideas about corporate responsibilities, technological innovations, and nation states’ ability to regulate corporations have been a cause of the (...) recent problems. Key ethical notions need to be rethought. (shrink)
Scholars are increasingly interested in possible relationships between aesthetics and ethics and in the pedagogical value of art. This paper considers some specific works of art and explores their multi-faceted relation to ethics and morality. I argue that art has both positive and negative relationships to ethics and morality (which I distinguish in a very rough way as the paper progresses). Art works of various sorts may productively be used in the business ethics classroom,but instructors need to keep in mind (...) the multivalent relationship between art, on the one hand, and ethics and morality on the other. (shrink)
In the C case, the turnaround at SBM has been effected. Most significant is the company’s realization that it exists to serve the consumer and, through that service, the broader society. This brief case outlines the successes Hiwasa pushed SBM management to accomplish and introduces the challenges the company faced in 2009: primarily, continuing to build its corporate social responsibility approach and addressing environmental and social issues.
. In this post-Enron era, we have heard much talk about the need for integrity. Today’s employees perceive it as being in short supply. A recent survey by the Walker Consulting Firm found that less than half of workers polled thought their senior leaders were people of high integrity. To combat the perceived lack of corporate integrity, companies are stressing their probity. This stress is problematic because executives tend to instrumentalize the value of integrity. This paper argues that integrity needs (...) to be better defined because the current mode of talking about the subject is misleading. The paper considers three traditions’ understanding of the idea of integrity, argues that integrity is intrinsically valuable, and concludes with some reflections on the way in which integrity, properly understood, functions as a business asset. (shrink)
In The Nature of Evil, Daryl Koehn takes us on a sweeping tour of different interpretations of evil. In this timely and serious discussion she argues that evil is not intentional malice, but rather violence that stems from a false sense of self. Violence is not true evil but a symptom of the underlying evil of our failure to really know who we are. Koehn examines situations in which good intentions can have horrific results. She explores such works as The (...) Talented Mr. Ripley , Dante's Inferno , and The Turn of the Screw to illustrate the origins of evil and suffering. The Nature of Evil offers an insightful and engaging exploration at a time when we are all struggling to understand the roots of violence and suffering. (shrink)
Teachers and managers strive to be determining causes, leading those whom we instruct or supervise to act in some ways rather than others. If we are seeking to be causes, then we ought to admit our mission and monitor how well we are doing. Yet, instead of owning up to our failures, we hide behind claims such as “some students are unteachable because their habits are bad,” or “we have little time to affect our students who are being indoctrinated by (...) other business school professors to believe that narrow self-interest does and should rule the world.” Perhaps it is we who have failed our students, not the reverse. Examining our business ethics pedagogy is crucial because regulation is not by itself going to prevent future scandals. This paper presents three structures for teaching business ethics in a liberal arts, transformative way. While no pedagogy comes with a guarantee, these approaches at least have the potential to transform students because they force students to have “some skin in the game.”. (shrink)
As use of the Internet has increased, many issues of trust have arisen. Users wonder: will may privacy be protected if I provide information to this Internet vendor? Will my credit card remain secure? Should I trust that this party will deliver the goods? Will the goods be as described? These questions are not merely academic. A recent Boston Consulting Group study revealed that one out of ten consumers have ordered and paid for items online that never were delivered (Williams, (...) 2001). This year consumers filed around 11 000 complaints with the Federal Trade Commission alleging auction fraud, a figure up from the 107 lodged in 1997. It is no wonder that people are increasingly worried about whom to trust in online interactions. This paper explores the conditions under which online trust thrives and looks at examples of best and worst corporate practices. Online trust issues arise in a wide array of forums - chat rooms, news postings, e-catalogues, and retail transactions, to name a few. This paper focuses primarily on the online retail market, but the analysis applies to informational and entertainment sites as well. (shrink)
A number of advocates for TQM contend that firms who embrace TQM will automatically and naturally act in ethically sound ways (Roth, 1993; Pace, 1999; Steeples, 1994). This claim is a strong one. This paper assesses its truth. We consider the many ways in which quality initiatives, if undertaken in good faith, can foster sound ethics. We explore the various ways in which TQM presupposes, and thus cannot engender, ethical behavior. And, finally, we identify some of the ethical blind spots (...) in quality initiatives and TQM. We propose that if TQM is undertaken by thoughtful people who take steps to correct its ethical blind spots and who understand the need for an ethical underpinning, then TQM and ethics will prove mutually reinforcing. (shrink)
Confucius’s teachings fall under four headings: “culture, moral conduct, doing one’s best, and being trustworthy in what one says” (7/25).1 Trust or, more precisely, being trustworthy, plays a central role in the Confucian ethic. This paper begins by examining the Confucian concept of trustworthiness. The second part of the paper discusses how the ideal of trustworthiness makes itself felt inbusiness practices within China. The paper concludes by raising and addressing several objections to the Confucian emphasis ontrustworthiness.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes are one of the fastest growing types of business. However, little has been written about the ethics of MLMs. This oversight is somewhat surprising, especially because some prominent MLMs have been accused of being pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes were the number one type of internet fraud in 1996, and the fourth most common form of internet fraud in 1997 (National Consumers League, 1997). This paper examines the nature of MLMs and their similarities with and differences from (...) pyramid and endless chain schemes. The paper argues that MLMs pose some unique ethical issues, issues that are not easy to address or resolve. (shrink)
The discipline of business ethics traditionally has paid too much attention to articulating and applying the moral law and has devoted too little thinking to the nature and consequences of evil for our souls. For purposes of this discussion, I shall limit myself to Dante’s vision of evil as a diminution of human being. On his journey through hell, Dante encounters the shades—people who, through their own actions, have rendered themselves less than fully human. This paper concentrates especially on the (...) various types of fraud andtheir psychic effects as portrayed by Dante in his book Inferno. (shrink)
This paper examines what, if anything, "Eastern philosophy" can teach us about business ethics. The whole idea of "Eastern ethics" or so-called "Asian values" is suspect on a number of scores. The paper argues that It is better to refer to specific ideas of particular thinkers influential within one country or tradition. The paper concentrates on the philosophy of two such thinkers – Watsuji Tetsuro of Japan and Confucius. When this more "micro" approach is adopted, we can learn some important (...) lessons with respect to the meaning of trust, the longterm nature of relations, and ethics that extend far beyond the limited idea of rights. The paper considers these lessons in the business context. (shrink)
An increasing number of philosophers have suggested that businesses be conceived on the model of friendship. The paper sketches two different models of friendship – Aristotelian and Kantian. This paper examines whether and in what sense these models are appropriate to business. Care must be taken to specify which type of friendship is meant before treating businesses as friendships. Whether businesses can be friends with one another and with their stakeholders depends crucially upon the type of friendship involved.
Much of the current discussion of evil within business and professions locates evil within the individual employee. Dennis Moberg (1997) has argued for conceiving of employee viciousness as a lack of self-control. This paper argues, that while some evil behaviorsmay be well-modelled as instances of low self-control, this model does not fit much of what might qualify as evil (e.g., child-caregiversfalsely accusing their fellow employees of ritual child abuse). The paper examines three alternative models of evil, two drawn fromliterature, one (...) from theology, and shows why these alternative models are just as relevant for thinking about the nature and cause of evil as the low self-control model drawn from the criminology literature. (shrink)
Rethinking Feminist Ethics bridges the gap between women theorists disenchanted with aspects of traditional theories that insist upon the need for some ethical principles. The book raises the question of whether the female conception of ethics based on care, trust and empathy can provide a realistic alternative to the male ethics based on duty and rule bound conception of ethics developed from Kant, Mill and Rawls. Koehn concludes that it cannot, showing how problems for respect of the individual arise also (...) in female ethics because it privileges the caregiver over the cared for. Drawing on Socrates' Crito , she shows how an ethic of dialogue can instill a critical respect for the view of the other and the ethical principles absent from the female ethic. (shrink)
Business ethicists have increasingly used Aristotelian “virtue ethics” to analyze the actions of business people and to explore the question of what the standard of ethical behavior is. These analyses have raised many important issues and opened up new avenuesfor research. But the time has come to examine in some detail possible limitations or weaknesses in virtue ethics. This paper arguesthat Aristotelian virtue ethics is subject to many objections because the psychology implicit within the ethic is not well-suited for analyzing (...) some problematic forms of behavior. Part One offers a brief overview of the firm and of the good life from a virtue ethics perspective. Part Two develops a number of criticisms of this perspective. (shrink)
A number of business writers have argued that business is a game and, like a game, possesses its own special rules for acting. While we do not normally tolerate deceit, bluffing is not merely acceptable but also expected within the game of poker. Similarly, lies of omission, overstatements, puffery and bluffs are morally acceptable within business because it, like a game, has a special ethic which permits these normally immoral practices. Although critics of this reasoning have used deontological and utilitarian (...) arguments to show that deceit in business is just an immoral as it is in any other realm of human practice, little attention has been paid to the fact that the argument is one of analogy. The analogical argument for business' special ethic is only as strong as the alleged similarities between business and game-playing. This paper argues that this analogy is quite weak and incapable of either providing much insight into business or of offering a reason to think that the ethics of business are, or even could be, like those of a game. (shrink)
The economist Milton Friedman argued that business has only one ethical responsibility: Business has a responsibility to employ all available legal means to increase corporate profits owed to stockholders (Friedman, 1993). In this article, I explore why business students find this argument so attractive. I then argue that, as an account of business ethics, Friedman's legalism is both theoretically and practically unsound. I close with some suggestions as to what would constitute a truly ethical understanding of business practice.
This article explores differences in the ways in which utilitarian, deontological and virtue/aretic ethics treat of act, outcome, and agent. I argue that virtue ethics offers important and distinctive insights into business practice, insights overlooked by utilitarian and deontological ethics.