The “ethics of advertising wine” is not actually the subject of this post. The web site, Ethics of Advertising Wine, is. I enjoyed the site, an interesting foray into ethics and advertising, and below is the author’s take on utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is split between the works of two famous philosophers: Bentham and Mill. What you have just seen is a very shallow version of Bentham’s philosophy. What Bentham did was provide a moral theory that was supposed to allow people to calculate whether something is morally good dependent on if it brought more overall pleasure than pain. The tricky part of his theory comes when you have to place a numeric value on seemingly immeasurable things. I mean, how exactly do you put a number on how much pleasure eating an entire pizza pie will bring? (one million pleasures, that is how much.) And how many pleasure points are subtracted from how fat and unhealthy you will feel? (seven…the answer is seven. so I’m heading off to Little Caesars.) Not only is it difficult to put a number on your own personal pleasure an pains, but utilitarianism includes the pleasure and pain of anyone that will be affected by your decision, even those that will be effected in the future. Bentham also was a follower of act utilitarianism. This means that he believed that you should deem the moral value of each individual act and follow those calculations.
Mill, who studied Bentham, was a rule utilitarian. He believed that moral citizens should calculate the ethical value of a set of “rules.” They should then never stray from following those rules. For example, he would calculate the pleasures and pains of every person ever in the case of lying. He would possibly find out that lying causes more pain than pleasure, and would deem that, as a rule, lying is immoral. No longer do you have to do individual calculations on each special scenario to see whether lying is okay in this case and bad in another.
From around the web.
From the web site, European Business Ethics Ireland.
Probably the most widely understood and commonly applied ethical theory is utilitarianism. In an organisational context, utilitarianism basically states that a decision concerning business conduct is proper if and only if that decision produces the greatest good for the greatest number of individuals.
“Good” is usually defined as the net benefits that accrue to those parties affected by the choice. Thus, most utilitarians hold the position that moral choices must be evaluated by calculating the net benefits of each available alternative action.
Importantly, all the stakeholders affected by the decision should be given their just consideration.
As mentioned previously, teleological theories deal with outcomes or end goals. The often-stated declaration that “the end justifies the means” is one classic expression of utilitarian thinking. Several formulations of utilitarianism exist. Their differences harken back to the original writers on the topic, the nineteenth-century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
How moral intensity and ethical decision making differs between uk business students and accounting professionals? | The WritePass Journal
Moral intensity relates to the issue itself and to every unique situation Shaub (1997). Consequently Jones (1991, p372) described moral intensity as being “a construct that captures the extent of issue-related moral imperative in a situation”. Ethical dilemmas tend to be evaluated within the context of the situation; hence an evaluation of the situation is imperative in understanding if a situation is ethical or not Dewe (1997). The conception behind moral intensity has often been related to the criminal justice system; in that your punishment is proportionate to the severity of the offence you commit Davis et al (1988). According to Jones (1991) moral intensity is a multidimensional construct and he identifies six characteristics that make up the moral intensity model.
At what point does moral or ethical problems trigger action? Or even concern or notice? The moral intensity with which a subject is perceived may be the key to determining the trigger.
Environmentalists could be said to have more moral intensity about over use of pesticides than farmers. Farmers probably find the issue of genetically enhanced seeds more of a serious issue than the general public, and so on …
In an ideal situation, the most critical issues of danger and damage to societal order would generate heightened levels of moral intensity so that reactions to moral violations would be quick and effective.
But moral intensity has also been a force for destruction – religious wars, persecution and torture have all flowed from situations where “moral” intensity was at its worst.
It’s a concept worth pondering and important in business ethics, since without that trigger provoking action, most business ethics problems would just continue unaddressed moving onward by simple inertia.
What I have excerpted above is one view of moral intensity. I am going to list some other blog perceptions of the issue below.
Moral rhetoric is the culture war’s current weapon of choice, but the culture war’s real meat lies in the orthodoxies that compel the moral intensity at the front lines. We cannot adequately understand how the culture wars evoke such moralistic passion until we recognize the authority of these orthodoxies. Effectively, two camps wage the culture war: the secular orthodoxy, composed of those who identify with the medley of feminism, pluralism, liberationism, and multiculturalism, and the traditional orthodoxy, wed to Judeo-Christian values. As the incessant unrest over Roe v. Wade illustrates, the intrinsic disparities between these orthodoxies render them philosophically incompatible.
Weblogs, or blog, are rapidly becoming a mainstream technology in the information world. By June 2008, Technorati, an internet search engine, was indexing 112.8 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Blogs allow millions of people to easily publish their ideas and millions more to read and evaluate and comment on them. When bloggers write things on their blog they became public. Although bloggers use blogs for many different functions and would likely provide many different definitions of blog (Stutzman, 2004), as we have seen, many bloggers perform journalistic functions. Therefore most moral code for bloggers is credibility in a journalistic sense (Blood, 2002; Dube, 2003), but they are nonprofessional without such code. Generally, blog audiences are built on trust, so bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. For example, bloggers should disclose every benefit to any monetary (or other potentially conflicting) interests when appropriate. However, there has been almost no talk about this kind of ethics in the blog world. This study designed three ethical scenarios of blogger behavior against ethics code. Scenarios include blogger promoted her favorable food without disclosure conflict of interests, post other people’s entries without referencing material, and decoding other bloggers’ picture. The purpose of current research was to examine the perception of moral intensity and how the perception directly affected the specific processes of moral decision making of bloggers related to three scenarios.
Moral intensity is the degree that people see an issue as an ethical one. Influences on moral intensity include magnitude of consequences, social consequence, concentration of effect, temporal immediacy and proximity. The magnitude of consequences is the anticipated level of impact of the outcome of a given action. The social consensus is the extent that members of a society agee that an act is good or bad and the probability of effect is the rise and fall of moral intensity depending on how likely people think the consequences are. Temporal immediacy is a function of the interval between the time an action occurs and the onset of consequences. Proximity refers to the psychological or emotional closeness the decision-maker feels to those affected by the decision. Concentration of effect refers to the extent to which consequences are focused.
A Basic Justification for Preference Utilitarianism | Life, philosophy, and a whole lot else
Preference utilitarianism bases itself on the idea used in classical utilitarianism, that the principle of utility is the most important basis of moral decision-making. This principle is about maximising pleasure/happiness or preventing pain/suffering, as Bentham says. Preference utilitarianism retains this but simply modifies it to be subjective, that people’s preferences should be maximised, not pleasure over pain. This is a simple way to be personal, allowing everyone their own say rather than simply assuming pleasure is always desirable (since it is not, e.g. eating a bar of chocolate when morbidly obese, as a simple example), or that pain is not (common in religious life, or secularly the opposite of before – exercising). So this is a simple upgrade of utilitarianism.
It could be argued that people are irrational, they do not always have the right preferences or are not in a position to have one. But we can surely not assume that people are alwyas irrational. If we were to do so, then the ethical system could simply not be applied since people would use it illogically or misinterpret it. For classical utilitarianism, we would be saying that pleasure is desirable but some people (since they are irrational) would not desire it. It is similar in economics – we have to assume people act rationally, even if in practice it is unlikely to always be the case.
This is the first statement of preference utilitarianism I found with a web search. I thought I would look around the web and see what other web sites had on the issues. This is an important concept in business ethics. People choose their greatest happiness by making decisions based on their preferences. It’s very free market. Milton Friedman would find a lot in this to like.
However, it was on the last issue that the conference demonstrated real philosophical interest too. Singer admitted that his brand of utilitarianism – preference utilitarianism – struggles to get to grips with the vastness of the problem of climate change. Further, there is an element that comes naturally to Christian ethics which his ethics might need in order to do so. It has to do with whether there are moral imperatives that can be held as objectively true.
Climate change is a challenge to utilitarianism on at least two accounts. First, the problem of reducing the carbon output of humanity is tied to the problem of rising human populations. The more people there are, the greater becomes the difficulty of tackling climate change. This fact sits uneasily for a preference utilitarian, who would be inclined to argue that the existence of more and more sentient beings enjoying their lives – realising their preferences – is a good thing. As Singer puts it in the new edition of his book, Practical Ethics: “I have found myself unable to maintain with any confidence that the position I took in the previous edition – based solely on preference utilitarianism – offers a satisfactory answer to these quandaries.”
Second, preference utilitarianism also runs into problems because climate change requires that we consider the preferences not only of existing human beings, but of those yet to come. And we can have no confidence about that, when it comes to generations far into the future. Perhaps they won’t much care about Earth because the consumptive delights of life on other planets will be even greater. Perhaps they won’t much care because a virtual life, with its brilliant fantasies, will seem far more preferable than a real one. What this adds up to is that preference utilitarianism can provide good arguments not to worry about climate change, as well as arguments to do so.
From the web site, AlevelRE.com: (This is a teaching site with a great deal of useful and well-written content on Utilitarianism. I strongly recommend it. You should go to the site and read more of the content.)
Preference Utilitarianism This form of Utilitarianism is most commonly associated with Australian philosopher, Peter Singer. His modern take on the greatest happiness principle focuses on the impact an action will have on the preferences of those directly affected. In achieving the greatest happiness, Singer argues that we should act in a way that satisfies people´s preferences—in other words, what people prefer or would most like to happen. Like Utilitarians before him, Singer emphasises that peoples’ preferences count equally—my preference for something is no more important simply because it is my preference. This requires an impartial perspective is taken when considering the correct moral action. In identifying the right thing to do, we must consider all those affected by an action and aim to act in accordance with the majority´s preferences. This is different from the hedonism of Jeremy Benthem since Singer is considering a more sophisticated view of what maximises happiness. Where for Benthem, actions are considered in terms of pleasure and pain, Singer recognises that different people have different preferences and it is best to act in the best interests of those concerned. Take the story of the Blacksmith & the Baker—Bentham would argue that the execution of the innocent baker maximises the happiness of the community, despite his protestations. However, Singer would not allow this as the action goes directly against the preferences of the person most affected, ie the Baker´s preference for continued existence.
I am slightly puzzled by Preference Utilitarianism. This post is an attempt to tease out that puzzlement as much as anything else.
Preference Utilitarianism is a form ofConsequentialism, a moral system in which the rightness of an action is judged based on its consequences. The original form ofutilitarianism put forward by Bentham argued that whatever increased pleasure and minimised pain was right. Preference Utilitarianism instead says that whatever satifies preferences is right.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophygives a few problematic preferences in criticism of Preference Utilitarianism but it seems to me some miss the mark. A preference to torture children would be counterbalanced by the children’s preference to not be tortured which is likely to be stronger. A preference to drink acid in mistake for a cool beer is not really a preference to drink acid but a preference for beer directed in error at the acid (being told the drink is acid will not remove the desire for beer, merely change the person’s belief that the drink is beer). Preferring to write very small may seem trivial – but to some, so might ivory carving, or discovering the Higgs Bosom.
The work of Peter Singer spans the entirety of major applied ethics topics. It is no coincidence that the development of Singer’s career runs parallel to the development and growing prominence of the aforementioned discipline. Singer’s work both helped to define the range of concerns in applied ethics, as well as to elevate the standard of intellectual rigor in the field. Singer has made major and lasting contributions on issues of bioethics, environmental ethics, and global poverty. Part of Singer’s effectiveness as a philosopher, as well as his influence outside of the academy, rests on the fact that his most powerful arguments require only that one accept a seemingly innocuous set of premises, most of which his readers are likely to hold implicitly (e.g. suffering and death from lack of proper nutrition and medical care is bad; if one can prevent something bad from happening without compromising something of similar moral significance, then one ought to do so). Following from these established premises, Singer then leads his readers through their logical and practical implications, to a conclusion he hopes will impact their behavior. All of Singer’s principal insights are consistently grounded in utilitarian considerations.
To this point, our discussion has centered on the limitations of modernism on business ethics – namely, moral relativism and a materialistic focus regarding ethical behavior. We next examine how the Christian worldview addresses these issues followed by how it might influence ethics research. Christian ethics founded on Scripture gives moral standards or a common platform that allow us to judge between right and wrong.
In business situations, people must decide what they ought to do and what ethical principles to follow. They must know that these principles are right and that it is reliable. This is not to say that an absolute moral law must be strictly followed given that the boundaries of moral law and its varied applications will always be debated. But the very idea of right and wrong makes sense only if there is a final standard by which we can make moral judgments (Colson and Pearcey, 1999).
What, if anything, does Christianity offer to the business and the ethical decisions that people must make?
Honesty? Fairness? Trustworthiness? The Golden Rule? Honoring God by the way we conduct ourselves?
Yes,certainly. But if that is all we have to offer, it’s not substantially different than other faiths. Are Jews to be fair, trustworthy, and honest? Of course. Muslims? Of course. This degree of similarity isn’t surprising considering the close geographical, historical and cultural proximity of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Christianity emerges from Judaism and Islam develops in a world shaped and influenced by Christianity and Judaism.
So again, what, if anything, constitutes a distinctly Christian business ethic? Perhaps we ought to ask, is there a uniquely Christian business ethic?
Amid the ongoing debate over issues of economics and ethics, Benedict XVI has addressed these issues on several occasions in recent months. On May 26 he spoke to a group of young people from Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.
Every business, the Pope noted, should be considered first and foremost as a group of people, whose rights and dignity should be respected. Human life and its values, the Pontiff continued, should always be the guiding principle and end of the economy.
In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged that for business, making a profit is a value that they can rightly put as an objective of their activity. At the same time the social teaching of the Church insists that businesses must also safeguard the dignity of the human person, and that even in moments of economic difficulties, business decisions must not be guided exclusively by considerations of profit.
And if Harvard MBAs get it, and corporate titans understand it, we certainly ought to focus our attention on the issue of business ethics as one of the most relevant concerns of anyone interested in tikkun olam – perfecting the world.
When we talk about the importance of business ethics as a barometer of spirituality, we need to remind ourselves of the remarkable passage in the Talmud that tells us that after we leave this earth to face our divine judgment, there are many things we will be queried about as the heavenly court reviews our lives. Yet the very first question posed will be: “Were your business dealings conducted honestly?”
And no one will be able to justify his misdeeds by claiming “It was only business!”
I want to put more in the blog about religious ethics. I strongly believe that it is neglected and often discarded in discussions of business ethics. But religion has much to say about business conduct from the Old Testament’s demand for just weights to Islam’s ban on interest payments.
If the company never seriously thought about whether it is ethical and corporate social responsibility issues, these six can provide guidance to start the process. Although it is important to behave ethically, it is equally important to get the message to the public if a company wants to take advantage of “doing well”. 1. Define what your company stands for and what values it places on the market. Public awareness of these values? Do they have a positive reaction to them? 2. Check the internal and external relations of the company. Do not they make sense and reflect the values of society? Public and the media frequently proclaim the guilt of the association. To search for new relationships with companies that meet ethical standards. 3. Understanding what the public expect from a company today. Are you ready to meet those expectations? 4. Check the location of assets, liabilities, and promises of brands, products, public sector and community initiatives. 5. Compare your public profile, in which private actions. Are in conflict? 6. Do not be shy about spreading the word through the media, employees and community.
Ethics involves the notion of morals however they’re different but interrelated concepts (Ethics and morality, n.d.; Tallman 2009). Morals are the individual establishment between right and wrong whereas ethics occurs in the context of groups of individuals who build shared values and standards creating a culture in which decisions influencing the causal relationship of right and wrong exist (Clawson 2006 ; Hrebiniak 2005 ; Klebe Treviño, Pincus Hartman & Brown 2000 ; Northouse 2009 ; Schein 2004). There’s a philosophical question of whether businesses have ethics due to the notion that business is apart from society (Longstaff 1991). However, individual people who constitute the business are part of multiple collectives defining the wider societal and cultural values environment in which ethics resides and the business operates (Huntsman 2008 ; Longstaff 1991).
Have you ever saw the definition of business? If you have then you know what I am talking about. In defining a business, ethics don’t play in to the picture at all. Sole purpose of a business is to increase the value for its stakeholders. Thus, can you blame those businesses, who are taking advantage ofthe lower tax policies in Ireland to increase their net income? It might be morally wrong forthose businesses to show all of their profit in Ireland, while they get their 50-70% profitfrom United States, but you can’t do anything about that. As more and more countries loosen their tax policies to attract foreign businesses, there would always be somecompanies who want to move there to increase their net profit by paying lower taxes there.
See if you can find all the ethical questions in the film!
People Will Talk = Click this link and you can buy it at Amazon.com for (currently) $11.97 new or $4.95 used.
People Will Talk is a great film for teaching. The story of an eccentric doctor played by Cary Grant who has an even more eccentric friend offers many ethical conundrums. Jeanne Crain is the love interest in the film. During the first half, she is troubled and a largely passive character. I was waiting for my intrepid students to call me out on this, since I am a vigorous supporter of powerful women characters but somehow they missed this. When she became a more vibrant and powerful character in the second half, I would’ve been justified but my prepared defense was unnecessary.
Should a doctor disclose all pertinent facts to a patient? Professional Ethics
Is concealing your qualifications immoral?Professional Ethics – Business Ethics
Is using any means including those outside the current science to heal moral or immoral? Professional Ethics – Business Ethics
Is the comfort of patients more important than the calls of procedure and timeliness on the part of the nursing staff?
What attitude should be taken toward unmarried mothers? Ethics
Is attempting to dig up the dirt on a colleague immoral? Professional Ethics – Business Ethics
Is living off of your relatives wrong all the time? or is it wrong depending on the circumstances?Ethics
At what point is a crime “paid for?” Ethics
MY PARTICULAR Points –
Can a kiss equal a marriage proposal? (A good proportion of my class says no. I differ.) A matter of curiosity
Is a story more effective as persuasion or a presentation of facts? (Bet you have that one figured out.) A matter of what I believe – the class tends to go along with me.
Does a movie (especially a good one) explain a moral problem more clearly than a lecture (although they get a brief one anyway!)?
I observe my classes carefully and I use some of the same films each year. But I experiment with new ones each year as well. This was a new one. It was a great success. The class was delighted with it and paid careful attention. Their assignment was to write down all the moral conundrums they observed. We are going to discuss them tomorrow.
Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni writing in the Huffington Post describe why Stoicism is still relevant today. I selected a passage from their first reason that the philosophy was designed for tough times. I’ve read Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, so I’m familiar with Stoicism but I don’t believe endurance is enough but otherwise I admire stoicism and find its practitioners admirable.
Stoicism was born in a world falling apart. Invented in Athens just a few decades after Alexander the Great’s conquests and premature death upended the Greek world, Stoicism took off because it offered security and peace in a time of warfare and crisis. The Stoic creed didn’t promise material security or a peace in the afterlife; but it did promise an unshakable happiness in this life.
Stoicism tells us that no happiness can be secure if it’s rooted in changeable, destructible things. Our bank accounts can grow or shrink, our careers can prosper or falter, even our loved ones can be taken from us. There is only one place the world can’t touch: our inner selves, our choice at every moment to be brave, to be reasonable, to be good.
The world might take everything from us; Stoicism tells us that we all have a fortress on the inside. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who was born a slave and crippled at a young age, wrote: “Where is the good? In the will…If anyone is unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone.”
While it’s natural to cry out at pain, the Stoic works to stay indifferent to everything that happens on the outside, to stay equally happy in times of triumph and disaster. It’s a demanding way of life, but the reward it offers is freedom from passion — freedom from the emotions that so often seem to control us, when we should control them. A real Stoic isn’t unfeeling. But he or she does have a mastery of emotions, because Stoicism recognizes that fear or greed or grief only enter our minds when we willingly let them in.
A teaching like that seems designed for a world on edge, whether it’s the chaotic world of ancient Greece, or a modern financial crisis. But then, Epictetus would say that — as long as we try to place our happiness in perishable things — our worlds are always on edge.
Are Ethics Courses Failing to Produce Ethical Business People? – Ethics Sage
The bottom line is there is no way of knowing whether business ethics education has made a difference. A graduate of a prestigious school might commit fraud in the future, but it doesn’t mean business ethics has failed them or even all students. Organizational pressures and the culture of a firm can create barriers to ethical behavior. The key is to find a way to work through the obstacles and voice your values.
I’m asked all the time why I teach ethics and am challenged whether it is even possible to change one’s ethics by a college course. After all, some argue, ethics is formed at a very early age. I don’t dispute that but do point out that my goal is to get students to reflect on their actions in a safe setting so they can better develop the tools to deal with ethical challenges in the workplace. I am not a guarantor of ethical action.
Teaching ethics should not rely on having one college course in business ethics and that is it. I see the failure of business ethics education to be one of not integrating ethics into each course and each decision in business. When colleges rely on one course to teach ethics, they are not sending the message that ethics counts. If they cover it in all courses and in the context of functional courses, then they send a completely opposite signal that it is an important part of every business decision.
I can teach business ethics – I know it from past experiences including grading papers, exams, and student presentations and papers on the topics. What I don’t know is whether students will really learn the lesson. Similarly, I can teach Intermediate Accounting to my students but I don’t know if they have truly learned the material and will be successful on the CPA Exam or in their accounting careers.
There is old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”. It is quite appropriate to say that it takes an organization to raise an ethical employee.
I guess you could ask if classes in art, history or music are effective? It’s hard to measure the results once you wander even a little distance from the hard sciences, and even they have trouble coming up with hard data at times. Many of the most important subjects like leadership are difficult to teach and have results hard to measure. Ethics is no different. We “cast our bread on the water” and hope for it to return.
This is a fun article. Of course, as an ethics teacher I should probably worry, but I will continue to have faith that I will do okay.
I am still working my way through moral philosophy so this article had relevance for me. I hope you enjoy it as well. Read the comments, some of them are pretty fire breathing.
Brace yourself. Or sit down. Or both. Eric Schwitzgebel and compatriots have uncovered a startling revelation: professional ethicists don’t behave any more morally or courteously than non-ethicists. Full abstract of their paper: If philosophical moral reflection tends to promote moral behavior, one might think that professional ethicists would behave morally better than do socially comparable non-ethicists. We examined three types of courteous a … Read More
The newspapers (and our blog) are full of unethical politicians; the sports pages full of rule-breaking players and parents; the business news full of sleazy companies and greedy CEOs; the education pages full of students who cheat on exams. What’s a person to think? Perhaps you really do have to cheat to win. Perhaps you need to shade the truth to get ahead. Good people hear that “everybody does it,” and wonder.