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Ethical Theories Essay

2042 words - 9 pages

Gregory B. Sadler
President and Founder, ReasonIO

Ethics in Business
Education Project
Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Goals and Scope of this Workshop
 Ethics can be complicated – in reality it often is
 Important to be clear and pragmatic about workshop
 Limited goal here: designed to help Business faculty with

one specific skill/knowledge area
 Presumes only most basic knowledge about Ethics
 The Key Question:

What Do You Need to Know To
Assess Students’ Knowledge and
Application of Ethical Theories?


Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

What Do You Need to Know To Assess
Students’ Knowledge and Application?
 You need basic understanding of ...view middle of the document...

g. “consequentialism,” “teleological ethics” (mis)used

for egoism,


Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Other Perspectives Students Might
Be Exposed To and Use
 Contractarian / Social Contract Theories
 “Rights” / “Justice” Theories

 Natural Law Theories
 Religiously-Based Ethics (sometimes called “Divine

Command Theory”
 Non-Theories
 Relativism
 “Universalism”
Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Ethical Theory 1: Egoism
 Famous Proponents: Ayn Rand, Adam Smith
 What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that

it satisfies one’s desires, or meets one’s needs
Basic Principle: Self-interest of person doing, considering,
or affected by the action
One should chose the action which most realizes or
conduces to one’s own self-interest
Important Variation: should the person look simply to
self-interest, or to enlightened or rational self-interest?
Conception of Rational Self-Interest is basic component
of capitalist economy and business models


Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Ethical Theory 2: Utilitarianism
 Famous Proponents: Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill
 What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that

it produces the greatest amount of pleasure (or lack of
pain) for the greatest number of people
 Basic Principle: “Greatest Happiness Principle”
 Maximizing positive outcomes for the largest number of

people, negative outcomes for lowest number of people
 One should chose the action which will lead to the greatest
happiness (i.e. pleasure, lack of pain) overall
 One’s own pleasure and pain only count as much as any
other person’s affected

 Important Variation: Quantitative Utilitarianism vs.

Qualitative Utilitarianism


Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Ethical Theory 3: Deontology
 Famous Proponents: Immanuel Kant, W.D. Ross
 What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is

that it conforms to some (rational) duty
 Basic Principle: Fulfilling duties towards self or other
 One should chose the action which best conforms to
one’s recognized duties
 Important Variation: are these duties discovered and
understood primarily by using reason (Kantian
Deontology), or by healthy common sense (Rossian
Intuitionist Deontology)

Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Deontology: Kant and Ross
 Kant’s version: Reason reveals our duty
 Categorical Imperative
 Can the action be universalized?
 Does the action treat people as ends, not just means?
 Ross’s Version: Common sense intuition reveals our

prima facie duties
 Duty of non-injury has priority
 Other duties: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, beneficence,

justice, self-improvement
Copyright Gregory B. Sadler, 2011

Ethical Theory 4: Care Ethics
 Famous Proponents: Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held,

Michael Slote (developed as feminist response to other
ethics –those reflective...

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