A complimentary assessment of Blum's award-winning book about racism and its affects. Well written as it is, it needs to be supplemented with a definition of racial injustice, and also to analyze racism not only on the level of individual morality but from a human rights perspective that discredits political and economic motives for racism (e.g., by drawing on Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism).
Business ethicists should examine not only business practices but whether a particular type of business is even prima facie ethical. To illustrate how this might be done I here examine the contemporary U.S. defense industry. In the past the U.S. military has engaged in missions that arguably satisfied the just war self-defense rationale, thereby implying that its suppliers of equipment and services were ethical as well. Some recent U.S. military missions, however, arguably fail the self-defense rationale. At issue, then, is (...) whether a business supporting these latter missions may not be circumstantially unethical. No it is not, say defense industry advocates, for two principal reasons. For one, this business benefits society at large in numerous ways. And, for another, the organizer of these military missions is a superpower which by its very nature is not subject to the ethical constraints of the self-defense rationale. I dispute both reasons, argue against the second, and conclude that the U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC) is circumstantially unethical. (shrink)
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a focal point for research aimed at extending business ethics to extra-corporate issues; and as a result many companies now seek to at least appear dedicated to one or another version of CSR. This has not affected the arms industry, however. For, this industry has not been discussed in CSR literature, perhaps because few CSR scholars have questioned this industry's privileged status as an instrument of national sovereignty. But major changes in the organization of (...) political communities call traditional views of sovereignty into question. With these considerations in mind I assess the U.S. arms industry on the basis of CSR requirements regarding the environment, social equity, profitability, and use of political power. I find that this industry fails to meet any of these four CSR requirements. Countering a claim that these failings should not be held against arms manufacturers because their products are crucial to national defense, I contend that many of these companies function not as dutiful agents of a nation-state but as politically powerful entities in their own right. So, I conclude, they should be held responsible for the foreseeable consequences that flow from use of their products. This responsibility should include civil liability and, in cases involving war crimes and violations of human rights, responsibility under international human rights standards. (shrink)
Business ethics should include illicit businesses as targets of investigation. For, though such businesses violate human rights they have been largely ignored by business ethicists. It is time to surmount this indifference in view of recent international efforts to define illicit businesses for regulatory purposes. Standing in the way, however, is a meta-ethical question as to whether any business can be declared unqualifiedly immoral. In support of an affirmative answer I address a number of counter-indications by comparing approaches to organized (...) crime and to corporate crime, comparing the ethical critique of businesses studied in business ethics and those socially banned, and comparing the business ethics assumption as to businesses’ ethicality to societal ethical neutrality regarding war-related businesses. My conclusion: to help advance respect for human rights, business ethicists should apply their expertise to the task of defining illicit businesses. (shrink)
What sort of connection is there between business ethics and philosophy? The answer given here: a weak one, but it may be getting stronger. Comparatively few business ethics articles are structurally dependent on mainstream academic philosophy or on such sub-specialities thereof as normative ethics, moral theory, and social and political philosophy. Examining articles recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics that declare some dependence, the author finds that such declarations often constitute only a pro forma gesture which could be (...) omitted without detriment to the paper's content and conclusions. He also finds, however, that some authors do draw on solid philosophical work in ways that are establishing ever more meaningful interconnections between business ethics and academic philosophy. These cross-disciplinary studies, he concludes, are ground-breaking and invite creative imitation. (shrink)
Some progress has been made in recent decades to articulate corporate social responsibility (CSR) and, more recently, to associate CSR with international enforcement of human rights. This progress continues to be hampered, however, by the ability of a multinational corporation (MNC) that violates human rights not only to shift liability from itself to a nation-state but even to win compensation from that nation-state for loss of profits due to restrictions on its business activities. In the process, the nation-state’s sovereignty is (...) diminishing; and, in effect, though still attributed to nation-states, it is being transferred to the MNC. The main aim of this article is (1) to draw on normative considerations to claim that this MNC proto-sovereignty should be modified and (2) to contend that this can eventually be accomplished by adding to corporate adoption of CSR guidelines a regimen of global human rights enforcement. I base this contention on expectations about the internationalization of corporate criminal law and the globalization of civil society in general and of NGOs in particular. I consider various jurisdictions but I focus on US jurisprudence. (shrink)
Business ethicists should examine ethical issues that impinge on the perimeters of their specialized studies (Byrne 2011 ). This article addresses one peripheral issue that cries out for such consideration: the international resource privilege (IRP). After explaining briefly what the IRP involves I argue that it is unethical and should not be supported in international law. My argument is based on others’ findings as to the consequences of current IRP transactions and of their ethically indefensible historical precedents. In particular I (...) examine arguments from political philosophy for more equitable distribution of resources and appeals to property rights as a means of achieving this; business ethicists’ critiques of contemporary resource appropriations; and legal historians’ accounts of despoliation of aboriginal peoples, especially in what is now the United States, involving acquisition via conquest, asserted jurisdiction, and religious and racial preeminence. I also consider relevant human rights’ standards; supportive views of some theorists, especially early modern realists and current supporters of group rights and multidimensional rectification; some de facto incidences of substantive restitution; and proposals for effecting further rectification. (shrink)
A drone industry has emerged in the US, initially funded almost exclusively for military applications. There are now also other uses both governmental and commercial. Many military drones are still being made, however, especially for surveillance and targeted killings. Regarding the latter, this essay calls into question their legality and morality. It recognizes that the issues are complex and controversial, but less so as to the killing of non-combatant civilians. The government using drones for targeted killings maintains secrecy and appeals (...) to non-traditional justifications. Most scholars who assess these killer drone practices support citizen immunity, either by favoring a modified just war theory that prioritizes civilians’ right to life or by challenging official deviations from applicable laws. They accordingly declare such killing immoral if not a war crime. The manufacturers of these killer drones are not themselves the killers, but they are abetters, i.e., sine qua non facilitators. So, I argue that any company concerned about its corporate social responsibility should cease manufacturing them. (shrink)
This article is by design a response to Alastair M. Taylor's "For Philosophers and Scientists: A General Systems Paradigm." That work is an advance over stage theories. But its focus on modernization tacitly accepts marginalization. Its focus on an undifferentiated evolving human species disregards intra- and intersocietal conflicts. Its uncritical talk of societal energy shifts obscures the reality of conquest and exploitation. If general systems theory is to be truly objective, it should take into account world-around system imbalance and the (...) relevance of Newton's Third Law. (Publisher omitted title of this article and used only its subtitle.). (shrink)
After the 9/11 attacks the U.S. administration went beyond emergency response towards imperialism, but cloaked its agenda in the rhetoric of fighting ‘terrorists’ and ‘terrorism.’ After distinguishing between emergency thinking and emergency planning, I question the administration’s “war on terrorism” rhetoric in three stages. First, upon examining the post-9/11 antiterrorism discourse I find that it splits into two agendas: domestic, protect our infrastructure; and foreign, select military targets. Second, I review approaches to emergency planning already in place. Third, after reviewing (...) what philosophers have said about emergencies, I recommend they turn their attention to the biases inherent in and misleading uses of antiterrorist terminology. (shrink)
Survey of (mostly English-language) philosophical studies of techology as of 1987. Includes studies of work as affected by technology, the extent of technology's impact on workers, a comparison between the value of work as seen by synchronists and by diachronists and by feminists, and finally some projections as to work and technology in the future.
Contra mercantile propaganda, technology is "humanized" to the extent that it satisfies or at least permits satisfaction of basic human needs or enhancements. To assess a technology's contribution to humanization requires (1) rejection of the primacy of the machine (cyborg model) and commitment to primacy of the human being (prosthesis model) in man/machine relations, and (2) insistence on the responsibility of managers for consequences of their technology-related decisions. Such decisions are appropriate in this respect to the extent that they help (...) meet basic human needs rather than artificially engendered needs. Meta-evaluation requires active citizen participation in government regulation of technology. (shrink)
Scholarly critiques of the just war tradition have grown in number and sophistication in recent years to the point that available publications now provide the basis for a more philosophically challenging Peace Studies course. Focusing on just a few works published in the past several years, this review explores how professional philosophers are reclaiming the terrain long dominated by the approach of political scientist Michael Walzer. On center stage are British philosopher David Rodin’s critique of the self-defensejustification for war and (...) American philosopher Andrew Fiala’s skeptical assessment of the just war tradition in its entirety. Also considered is a collection of more narrowly focused critiques by philosophers and some highly relevant extra-philosophical studies regarding the social interconnections between authority and violence. (shrink)
Many scholars and activists favor banning illicit businesses, especially given that such businesses constitute a large part of the global economy. But these businesses are commonly operated as if they are subject only to the ethical norms their management chooses to recognize, and as a result they sometimes harm innocent people. This can happen in part because there are no effective legal constraints on illicit businesses, and in part because it seems theoretically impossible to dispose definitively of arguments that support (...) moral relativism. Progress is being made, however, towards a “second best” arrangement consisting of widespread institutional agreements regarding ethical norms. This development might eventually enable us to transcend moral relativism in some respects. Indeed, although some business ethicists who examine illicit business practices accept moral relativism, others attempt to surmount it. The latters’ endeavor, I show, is cross-cultural in nature in that it involves businesses that are deemed illicit in at least one but not every culture. I then recall some traditional solutions and their limits: ideological teachings are culture-specific, hence both temporally and spatially limited; legal constraints, though potentially helpful, are too diverse hence often narrow in reach. Especially problematic are defense industry businesses, which are inherently transcultural and, though uniquely harmful, are not effectively banned in any culture. Harm to quality of life (QoL) can, however, be measured. So I recommend institutional support for international human rights tied to QoL data as a workable way to counter moral relativism regarding illicit businesses. (shrink)
In anticipation of an imminent "robot revolution," data-based answers are given to these questions: what is a robot; what impact will robots have on the work force; and what can we do about displaced workers?
A critique of the prediction that technology will end humans' direct involvement in work. Contentions: a workless world is not without qualification desirable; it is not attainable by technology alone; the end sought does not in and by itself justify present job ending applications. Underlying these contentions: a claim that utopian visions with regard to work function as ideologies. Evidence for this claim derived from revisiting past non-industrial and industrial fantasies regarding a work-free utopia.
Not the publicly asserted reasons (humanitarianism and self-defense) but cooptation of oil reserves was the objective behind the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This underlying motive utterly fails to satisfy just war jus ad bellum conditions. This prioritization of petroleum is well documented and is consistent with decades old US policy towards the Middle East, especially as codified by Anthony Cordesman in 1998 and US DoD's Strategic Assessment 1999 and then adopted by Bush II. This fraudulent use of military (...) force raises a question as to how motives for war can be accurately identified prior to falsely justified belligerence. Some positive signs are noted herein as to political philosophers' better use of Rawls's reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Privacy involves a zone of inaccessibility in a particular context. In social discourse it pertains to activities that are not public, the latter being by definition knowable by outsiders. The public domain so called is the opposite of secrecy and somewhat less so of confidentiality. The private sphere is respected in law and morality, now in terms of a right to privacy. In law some violations of privacy are torts. Philosophers tend to associate privacy with personhood. Professional relationships are prima (...) facie private but may be investigated for cause. Privacy may entail both intimacy and caring but neither necessarily so. Finally, various technology-based means of intrusion are rendering privacy ever more difficult to sustain. (shrink)
Just war theory needs to become a real-time critique of government war propaganda in order to facilitate peace advocacy ante bellum. This involves countering asserted justificatory reasons with demonstrable facts that reveal other motives, thereby yielding reflective understanding which can be collectivized via electronic media. As a case in point, I compare here the publicly declared reasons for the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq in 2003 with reasons discussed internally months and even years before in government and think-tank documents. These sources (...) show that control of oil rather than regime change or a WMD threat was theunderlying motive. Neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration justified such deception by citing an exoteric/esoteric distinction traceable to Plato via Leo Strauss. As with the Iraq invasion, so in general such propaganda and its rationalizations can be undermined by investigative journalism understood as ranging from fact gathering to rhetorical analysis and critique. (shrink)
Ethical issues that arise because of the transcendent power of globally oriented corporate entities vis-a-vis local communities. Common problems arise from plant closings and automation, here illustrated by cases of restructuring in Indiana. Public use limitations on "eminent domain" decisions are considered. Then attention turns to the lack of constraints available to regulate decisions made by a transnational corporation. Limited applicability of Rawls's contract theory is noted, then ten real-world space-time situations are reported that involve legally uncontrolled harm to locals (...) due to supra-community control by a corporation. (shrink)
Law and technology , though not equivalent, are intertwined at every phase of a technology's "career." Any technology is directly or indirectly social, and as such becomes a target of regulation intrinsically or in relation to other technologies which it supports or opposes. Competing interests influence major decisions as to which technologies are encouraged or discouraged, heavily regulated or not, banned or not. Examples considered range from bounties to fuel, communication, and transportation preferences.
Corporate social responsibility has become a focal point for research aimed at extending business ethics to extra-corporate issues; and as a result many companies now seek to at least appear dedicated to one or another version of CSR. This has not affected the arms industry, however. For, this industry has not been discussed in CSR literature, perhaps because few CSR scholars have questioned this industry's privileged status as an instrument of national sovereignty. But major changes in the organization of political (...) communities call traditional views of sovereignty into question. With these considerations in mind I assess the U.S. arms industry on the basis of CSR requirements regarding the environment, social equity, profitability, and use of political power. I find that this industry fails to meet any of these four CSR requirements. Countering a claim that these failings should not be held against arms manufacturers because their products are crucial to national defense, I contend that many of these companies function not as dutiful agents of a nation-state but as politically powerful entities in their own right. So, I conclude, they should be held responsible for the foreseeable consequences that flow from use of their products. This responsibility should include civil liability and, in cases involving war crimes and violations of human rights, responsibility under international human rights standards. (shrink)
Ordinary people shudder at the thought that people in positions of power might do whatever they think they can get away with. But that is often the way it is in the real world, and the risks go even higher when opportunity is compounded with impatience. The ways of negotiation and diplomacy are not considered entirely outmoded. But more and more we are being duped by a dream of some ultimate technological fix: that one more fancy gadget is all it (...) will take to solve the vexing problems that less well-tooled folks have been stumbling over for centuries. Our success rate, this reasoning goes, has been limited so far only by the limits on our equipment. With the new super-missile, or the new super-plane, or the new superlaunching system in space, we will be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound-or, what is more to the point, just blow them away and walk across the crater. "Bombs can be clean." "Nuclearwar is winnable." The illusion of omnipotence that accompanies this megalomania is well nurtured by manufacturers who stand in line for contracts to help build some super-weapon. This should not be surprising. What at first glance is surprising is the almost total failure of our commercial media to call this myth into question. This criticism is meant to be sweeping, but I will here focus my remarks on film. (shrink)
Theorists and activists favor empowering government agencies to regulate technology; but an examination of such regulation by the US government exposes the inadequacy of any such regimen. Vested interests routinely interfere, e.g., keeping administration of polio vaccine in the hands of physicians, political infighting with regard to cancer research funding, advantages gained from noncompliance with military technology-constraining treaties. Public/private salary differences limit availability of the best talents for government positions, nor are truly appropriate regulatory policies easily arrived at in the (...) absence of meaningful funding. Solutions such as a Science Court are unreliable given the influences that would undermine neutrality as well as competence. (shrink)
Dewey's instrumentalist approach to problem-solving stressed social organization; and under this umbrella he included unionization. First part of this article: his active involvement in and support for the union movement summarized. Second part: his theoretical defense of unions is addressed, especially as to "democratic liberalism" and its implementation in the fabric of society. Third part: a brief account of the current status of unions in universities.
A description of how microelectronics and robotics are tending to increase unemployment, followed by comparisons between the social policies of Western European countries and the United States with reard to this problem. A conclusion points out the need for a social philosophy of technology that acknowledges workers' rights.
Businesses cause social harm, meaning harm to society at large and not just to those with whom a business is contractually linked. Evidence introduced: normative claims that businesses should be "socially responsible"; positive claims that they contribute to social well-being; and negative claims that they are sometimes military-like, causing extensive harm for which no one is held personally responsible. The latter point to corporate survivalism, which acknowledges no mandatory civil responsibilities. Neither law nor social pressure has yet counteracted this mind (...) set. Business ethics might, but not if its practitioners examine only narrowly contractual relationships. (shrink)
Recognizing that probability (the Greek doxa) was understood in pre-modern theories as the polar opposite of certainty (episteme), the author of this study elaborates the forms which these polar opposites have taken in some twentieth century writers and then, in greater detail, in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Profiting from subsequent more sophisticated theories of probability, he examines how Aquinas’s judgments about everything from God to gossip depend on schematizations of the polarity between the systematic and the non-systematic: revelation/reason, science/opinion, (...) saints/philosophers, Aristotle/others. Post-medieval developments have provided the means to discern within Thomas’s thought both a logical theory and a kind of relative frequency theory of probability. The former depends on Aristotle’s theory of demonstration, the latter on his theory of an orderly cosmos; but each as used by Thomas lead to convictions that are sometimes naive, sometimes amusing or even terrifying. (shrink)
Ethical questions regarding access to and use of electronically generated data are (if asked) commonly resolved by distinguishing in Lockean fashion between raw (unworked) and refined (worked) data. The former is thought to belong to no one, the latter to the collector and those to whom the collector grants access. Comparative power separates free riders from rightful owners. The resulting two-tiered ethics of access is here challenged on the grounds that it inequitably establishes a rule of law for the strong (...) while leaving the weak in a Hobbesian state of nature. Efforts at legislative constraints are reviewed; but such constraints are found to afford inadequate protections of privacy if a data subject may not prohibit others under ordinary circumstances from using recognizably name-linked data. (shrink)
The globalization of and technological challenge to the world's workers generate profound ethical problems. Suitable solutions will require governments and civil societies to move beyond the modern tendencies to divinize property rights and base people's income eligibility almost exclusively on their work. Some attention is being paid to the issues involved therein so as to achieve better work/life balance. In some places, in fact, resource-based wealth has been distributed to all citizens, even to those not directly involved in generating the (...) wealth. To maintain and grow such arrangements will be difficult so long as traditional capitalist values like property rights and the work ethic remain dominant. Until this worldview is modified, only the independently wealthy will be able to live decent lives without engaging in wage work. But wageworkers' ability to find such work indefinitely is not assured. (shrink)
Emergent technologies are undermining both decisional privacy (intimacy) and informational privacy. Regarding the former consider, e.g., technical intrusions on burglar alarms and telephone calls. Regarding the latter consider how routinely technologies enable intrusion into electronic data processing (EDP) in spite of government efforts to maintain control. These efforts are uneven among nations thus inviting selective choice of a data storage country. Deregulation of telecommunications and assigning operators First Amendment rights invites multiple efforts to profit from preferential treatment of multiple competitors.
The process of deciding which books academics submit should be published favors authors who are associated with the most prestigious universities and other research institutions. Some feel this bias could be minimized if the review of academic books were carried out as anonymously as is the review of articles for journal publication. Not likely to happen soon, however, because both academic and publishing industries promote the hierarchy of perceived excellence that permeates the process of publishing academic books. To find this (...) process to be in any way unethical one needs to move beyond individual-oriented approaches and adopt a social perspective that fosters fundamental fairness, equal opportunity, and equal respect. Here I assume these values as I focus on pre-publication of philosophical work in the United States. (shrink)