Defining a moral problem in business ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 49 (4):347-357 (2004)
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Managing expectations in a business ethicscourse is important and a key place to begin iswith a definition of a moral problem. Untilrecently I would explain, using moral terms,good and bad, right and wrong, duty or obligation or theircognates, what a moral problem is generally andthen what it may be in business. However Ifound that using familiar terms with vague orambiguous meanings to define the subject matterof the course counterproductive. What Irequired is a means of explaining to thebeginning student what a moral problem iswithout relying on the prior associations andmeanings of the term moral that thestudent brings to the discussion. In recentyears I realized that what I wanted, as astarting point for the business ethics course,is a definition of moral problem thatdoes not use specifically moral terms i.e.good, bad, right, wrong, duty. For pedagogicalreasons, I wanted a definition that suppliesthe criteria for determining whether a givenproblem is a moral problem or not without usingcommon moral terms. This paper reviews thetreatment given to the concept of a moralproblem in a number of standard business ethicstexts and then presents a working definitionthat does not rely on the use of specificallymoral terms. The definition is then critiquedfor limitations and weaknesses.



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References found in this work

Moral Thinking.Peter Millican & R. M. Hare - 1983 - Philosophical Quarterly 33 (131):207.
Definition.Richard Robinson - 1950 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
Ethical Theory and Business.T. L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie - 1988 - Journal of Business Ethics 7 (11):846-880.
Theory of the Moral Life.John Dewey - 1960 - Irvington Publishers.

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