Business Ethics Essay

4857 Words Apr 4th, 2010 20 Pages
71203 Business Ethics
Assignment 1

Drawing on ethical theory to critique a claim.

Businesses putting something back

into the local community...

...Morally obligatory - or not?

Utilitarian and Kantian Moral Theory Viewpoints

Tanya Lundie 9118692

27 March 2009
Rainbow (2002) describes ethical theories as being “...the foundations of ethical analysis...” because they are viewpoints from which guidance can be obtained in the interests of determining “...what counts as acting ethically...” (The Open Polytechnic, 2009, p.15). This essay draws on such ‘foundations’ to critique a claim about what makes an action morally obligatory for businesses. It is presented in four parts, the aim being to clarify my understanding of the positions of
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The non-consequentialist, deontological[3] approach of the former sees moral importance inhered in the principle (motive) of the action (a good in itself) via our rationality – consequences are immaterial. Whilst the consequentialist, teleological[4] basis for the latter provides that the consequences of the action are determinant of their morality - motives matter only insofar as they are conducive to maximising happiness (a good in itself). I’ll now outline each in turn.
John Stuart Mill[5] (1806-1873) proposed what utilitarians appeal to in moral decision-making; the principle of utility; or, the Greatest Happiness Principle which:

...holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure...absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. (Mills, as cited in The Open Poly, 2009, p.17)

The general utilitarian view is that happiness is a good in itself. The greatest good is securing maximal happiness/pleasure (good consequences) and minimal suffering/pain (bad consequences) for everybody, by acting morally well. Each person’s happiness counts the same, as Bentham (cited by The Open Poly, 2009, p.18) points out “...each to count for one, and none for more than one...” We must assess all possible actions and all persons impacted by such. We then judge actions as right/wrong in terms of their

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