Distinguish between consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethical perspectives and discuss their application in a business context.
Ethics can be defined as distinguishing and choosing between right and wrong (Oxford English Dictionary) and is a central part of what makes us human. It is, however, not as simple as it would first appear. The idea of ethics has long been the topic of discussion for philosophers and there are many differing views on the issue ranging from utilitarianism to virtue ethics. Despite this multitude of views certain grounds are agreed upon with regards to ethics:
* The possibility of free will.
* The focus on an individual’s ...view middle of the document...
This is not to say, however, that the moral principles of a society or any one person are inextricably linked to its laws but they often provide a good indicator on where society stands on most issues.
Business and ethics are often seen as polar opposites, the main goal of business being to succeed at all costs while failure is not an option (Clarke, J; 2012). Dishonesty, fraudulence and theft have always been major issues in the world of economics and business and there is an image of business as being a cut-throat and amoral place with profit being the only goal (Clarke, J; 2012). Is this a fair and true representation of business as a whole? It seems only logical that where there is power to be gained and money to be made, corruption will always exist but this does not necessarily mean that morality or ethics do not have their place in this world. Within this essay I will further discuss how ethics and business relate to one another and how various types of ethics (both of a consequentialist and non-consequentialist nature) can be implemented in the world of business and the outcomes that can be expected from this.
First and foremost I must distinguish between consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethics. Consequentialist ethics judge right and wrong based on the consequences of the action in question (Holsinger, K; 2011). The most common type of consequentialist ethical theory is utilitarianism which seeks “the action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number” (Bentham; J). Non-consequentialism, by contrast, seeks to appropriate values of right and wrong to an action based on the intrinsic qualities of the action itself rather than its consequences. Non-consequentialist ethics dictate that some actions are unethical in themselves, regardless of the outcome that may come about as a result. An action such as murder or lying could be seen as inherently wrong even if committing a murder or lying would be in the greater good (Alexander, L; Moore, M; 2012).
Types of consequentialist ethics include: Utilitarianism; hedonism; rule consequentialism and negative consequentialism. All these theories are based on the idea that the rightness and wrongness of an action can only be ascertained through its outcomes.
Utilitarianism states that the right choice in a given situation is the one which provides the most happiness and the least unhappiness for the largest number of people (Driver, J; 2009). Utilitarianism is usually attributed to Jeremy Bentham, although there were some similar theories pre-dating those of Bentham. Both Bentham and John Stuart Mill associated rightness with pleasure and were thus hedonists (Driver, J; 2009). Another characteristic of utilitarianism is impartiality and agent-neutrality which ensures that the value of one person’s happiness does not exceed that of another. Bentham based his theory of utilitarianism on previous moralists such as Hume and is well known for his belief that humans are governed by...