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.
As each week beings more stories of doctors, lawyers and other professionals abusing their powers, while clients demand extra services as at a time of shrinking resources; it is imperative that all practising professionals have an understanding of professional ethics. In _The Ground of Profesional Ethics_, Daryl Koehn discusses the practical issues in depth, such as the level of service clients can justifiably expect from professionals, when service to a client may be legitimately terminated and circumstances in which client confidences (...) can be broken. She argues that, while clients may legitimately expect professionals to promote their interests, professionals are not morally bound to do whatever a client wants. _The Ground of Professional Ethics_ is important reading for all practising professionals, as well as those who study or have an interest in the subject of professional ethics. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
. 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)
Since the late 1990s, the number of apologies being offered by CEOs of large companies has exploded. Communication and management scholars have analyzed whether and why some of these apologies are more effective or more ethical than others. Most of these analyses, however, have remained at the anecdotal level. Moreover, the practical, economic consequences of apologies have not been examined. Almost no rigorous or systematic empirical work exists that examines whether stakeholders reward firms whose CEOs give apologies that are more, (...) rather than less, ethical; and punish firms whose corporate apologies are not ethically sound. This lacuna is surprising given that the whole purpose of an apology is to restore trust between the apologizer and the recipients of the apology. It is also surprising, given that stock market participants do appear, in at least some cases, to evaluate and respond to apologies by CEOs. When Johnson and Johnson was hit by the Tylenol poisonings, its stock price plummeted. One day after CEO James Burke’s apology—an apology widely praised for being ethically sound—approximately a half billion dollars of its previously lost stock value was restored. It appears, then, that a good CEO apology may lead to an increased stock value ceteris paribus. But is the Johnson and Johnson case representative of how the market responds in general to CEO apologies? (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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
“Responsibility” in Chinese consists of two words: “ze” and “ren” . In modern Chinese, although the two words “ze” and “ren” are mostly used as one word, people can still discern the close relationship between ze and right and between ren and the duty associated with a position or a power. In modern life, however, there is a serious problem with these historically close, key relationships. This paper raises the crucial question: how should we understand and deal with the separation (...) of freedom from responsibility, right from obligation, and duty from power, particularly within China? The first part of the paper investigates the understanding of responsibility and concepts of duty, obligation, right, and power in the Chinese context. The second part analyzes the key issues of responsibility associated with the expansion of rights and powers in today’s China. The concluding part explores agents’ responsibilities on different levels and offers suggestions on how to cultivate responsibility as part of a systematic moral education. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
Confucianism is potentially relevant to business ethics and business practice in many ways. Although some scholars have seen Confucian thought as applicable to corporate social responsibility :433–451, 2009) and to corporate governance :30–43, 2013), only a few business ethicists :415–431, 2001b; Journal of Business Ethics 116:703–715, 2013; Romar in Journal of Business Ethics 38:119–131, 2002; Lam in The Analects, Penguin Classics, London, 2003; Chan in Journal of Business Ethics 77:347–360, 2008; Woods and Lamond in Journal of Business Ethics 102:669–683, 2011) (...) have taken seriously the possibility that Confucius may have important insights to offer regarding virtue ethics, which has now become the most popular normative theory as evidenced by the number of recent articles published in business ethics journals :287–318, 2017). This paper aims to help rectify this oversight. The paper focuses on several distinctive aspects of Confucian ethics, discussing both how Confucius’ approach differs from Aristotelian virtue ethics in significant ways and how these key differences suggest numerous directions for future research. (shrink)
Much of the current discussion of evil within business and professions locates evil within the individual employee. Dennis Moberg 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 . 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)
Michael Hannigan is the CEO and co-founder of Give Something Back Office Supplies, the third largest office supply company on the west coast of the United States. Hannigan began his business in 1991, long before any benefit corporation legislation was enacted. He reincorporated his business as a benefit corporation after California passed such legislation in 2011. On April 23, 2015, he spoke at the 22nd Annual Stakeholder Dialogue Speaker Series convened at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, by Daryl Koehn (...) and the Veritas Institute. His remarks cover the genesis of his interest in socially responsible business and the start of his company. Hannigan also discusses the arc of what he refers to as the “fourth sector”—the emergence of the social enterprise sector. He evaluates where benefit corporations began and shares his reflections on how they may develop in the future. Hannigan’s talk concludes with a short question and answer session with audience members at the event. (shrink)
Social enterprises may take a variety of legal forms. This paper focuses primarily upon one particular new form increasingly popular within the United States—the “Benefit Corporation.” I evaluate whether US Benefit Corporations are likely to realize as much social benefit as is frequently claimed. Part One of the paper describes the features of Benefit Corporations as they are constituted in many states. Part Two lays out the benefits extolled by supporters of this US legal corporate form. Part Three challenges these (...) claims and adduces some reasons for doubting whether Benefit Corporations will prove to be as socially useful as they claim to be. Part Four concludes with some suggestions for future lines of research into the nature of the firm and Benefit Corporations in particular. (shrink)