Morality

MGMT20134 Topic 2.docx

MGMT20134 Business Ethics and Sustainability

Topic 2 Morality

Table of Contents Introduction 2 Learning objectives 2 Overview 2 Morality 3 Moral Responsibility 5 Personhood 5 Accountability and responsibility 6 Morality and Law 6 Cognitive Moral Development 7 Other Moral Perspectives 11 Relativism 11

Introduction

All societies have a series of rules, principles and laws that establish what is acceptable and what is non-acceptable behaviour. The source of these is generally referred to as morality. The concepts of right and wrong, good and bad.

We hold that a person and an organisation should be held morally responsible when they undertake actions freely and knowingly, and when we can establish a relationship between their actions and the resulting consequences. Clearly when we make decisions as leaders and managers we take into account matters of cost, benefit, implications to market share and to company reputation. So too should we be taking our ethical duties and responsibilities seriously as virtually all decision contexts have direct ethical dimension which in turn affects cost, profitability and reputation.

This topic seeks to establish the foundations by which concepts of ethical decision-making social responsibility and sustainability can be explored. Without an examination of morality and various dimensions of ethics we cannot have an informed discussion regarding when an individual should be held accountable for their actions, whether they have duties as professionals, whether an organisation can be held accountable for its actions and why we should be concerned with doing good as well as being profitable or delivering high quality services.

Learning objectives

This unit has the following learning objectives:

1. To define the concepts of ethics and morality.

2. Understand the characteristics of a moral standard

3. Understand the relationship between ethics, morality and values

4. To recognise the conditions under which individuals and organisations would be held morally accountable for their actions

5. To understand the concept of cognitive moral development and how it explains individual moral decision making.

Overview

Noted scholar and Professor of management at McGill University, Henry Mintzberg conducted landmark studies of managers and leaders in the 1970s and replicated these studies again in the 2000s. He found that managerial work was, and still is, characterised by brevity, variety and fragmentation. This means that managers and leaders tend to break up their tasks spend short periods of time on each and not necessarily attend to them in a cohesive and structured manner. He also found that despite decision making being a critical component of a manager’s role they are not reflective thinkers but tend to be reactive and make decisions with insufficient information.

Child (1988; 2005) found another characteristic of managerial decision making that generates cause for concern when discussing “good” quality decision making. He found that when confronted with the need to reach a decision, managers tend to look to the first solution that appears that satisfy the minimum decision criteria, rather than take a considered approach and consider a variety of options thus increasing the likelihood of an optimal solution. Child termed this phenomenon “saticifing”.

The financial crisis of the late 2000s, the collapse of Lehman Bros, the toxic loans of American banks, the collapse of Enron, World Com and as a result Arthur Anderson, HIH and One-Tel in Australia, can in part be explained by poor decision making. But are there other issues that also need to be considered? Did managers in these organisations also act unethically? In order to answer these questions we need to understand what ethics is and when people should be held accountable for their actions.

The objective of studying ethics in a business context is to enhance the quality of business decision-making. By including ethical concepts as “filters”, managers and leaders can identify the degree of risk associated with a particular strategy for both the organisation and themselves.

Having a sound ethical foundation will assist your development as a manager and a leader. Kouzes and Posner (2010) found that employees admire and will follow managers and leaders who act with integrity and behavioural consistency. Thus ethical perspectives are also considered in MGMT 20131 Organisational and Leadership and Integrity and MGMT 20129 People Organisations and Context. Similarly, ethical approaches to managing change and the communication with stakeholders are also vital. As noted in the introduction to this unit, the absence or the inability of managers to consider ethics in the financial, economic and operational decision making was cited as a major factor in the Global financial crisis of the early 2000s. Thus key courses in the CQU MBA such as ECON 20063 Economics and Finance for Managers, ACCT20077 Accounting for Management Decision Making and MGMT 20130 Operations Management are informed by this unit in terms of improving decision making by identifying the ethical dimensions and impact on a range of stakeholders. Lastly, the strategic objective of any business is to achieve economic sustainability. Corporate reputation plays a major factor in assisting businesses and organisations in achieving this key objective.

By including this course and other foundation courses such as Business Communications and Critical Thinking & Managerial Decision Making, we directly addresses Mintzberg’s criticism of the lack of reflective thinking and Child’s “satisficing” phenomena by assisting managers to develop understand the basis for and thus establish defendable positions for their decisions and actions. In some cases, this may result in us reappraising our own values, beliefs and perception of what is right, wrong, fair and just in the business and in society.

Morality

According to Preston (1996, p 16) ethics is concerned with what is right, fair, just or good; about what we ought to do, not just what is the case or what is most acceptable or expedient.

Ferrell Fraedrich and Ferrell (2015) suggest that it is the study of the general nature of morals and of specific moral choices; moral philosophy; the study of rules or standards governing conduct of the members of a profession

The concept of “ought” is critical in an understanding of ethics because the study of ethics is multifaceted including the study of morality, the legitimacy of moral claims and basis of justification of decisions.

Many people dislike discussing issues of morality within the context business activity. Perhaps one of the most well know articles criticising the idea of the moral dimension of business was by Milton Friedman who advocated that the sole social (moral) responsibility was to maximize profits. The problem with this perspective is it fails to acknowledge that the activity of business generates not only good consequences, but also bad ones and that in some cases leaders and managers knowingly commit to an action that will cause harm

It is important to understand what we mean by morality and the fact that other individuals, groups and cultures may have different interpretations of morality.

Velasquez (2006) defines morality, as the standards that an individual or a group has about what is right and wrong or good and evil, whilst Buchholz (1989) defines morality simply as the difference between right and wrong.

Moral standards can be described as the norms about the kind of actions believed to be right and wrong and the values placed on the objects that are considered to be morally good or morally bad.

These definitions should immediately demonstrate a link to descriptive, normative and meta-ethical considerations.

However Buchholz (1989) highlights some problems with the study and application of morality when it comes to how we as individuals approach the issue. He suggests that we tend to operate at two levels, on a personal level in which we wish to judge and act in accordance to our conscience and the third person level in which we wish to judge the actions of others from an objective point of view, but do not wish to know or cannot know the subjective state of the one performing the action.

The other problem that should be apparent is the distinction between what we believe or perceive to be morally right and what actually is morally right. This is the distinction between what one believes to be right and wrong, and what is actually right and wrong. An action is subjectively right if the person believes the action is moral where as an action is objectively right if the action is in conformity with the moral law (Buchholz, 1989).

Velasquez (2006, p6) states that “moral standards can be described as the norms or principles about the kinds of actions believed to be morally right and wrong, as well as the values placed in the kinds of objects believed to be morally good and morally bad”.

Velasquez (2006, p. 9) highlights five characteristics of moral standards:

1. Involved with serious benefits or injuries

2. Not established by law or legislation

3. Should be preferred to other values including self interest

4. Based on impartial considerations

5. Associated with special emotion and vocabulary

We should be able to recognize that this distinction between subjective and objective morality has many implications for individuals and businesses, in particular when dealing with overseas contexts where interpretations of values and ethics may be different. Are these different interpretations examples of subjective or objective morality?

Principles

According to Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell (2015) principles are specific and pervasive boundaries for behaviour that must not be violated. We can think of principles as statements that seek to guide behaviour. In many cases principles inform the development of rules and regulations. For example we would consider concepts such as freedom, justice and fairness as principles. In Australia and in many other countries, we have developed anti-discrimination laws to insure that people are treated fairly and justly.

Within the business world many organisations use principles as part of their mission or vision statements. In a similar content these can be used to develop internal rules and regulations (policies and procedures) that then guide or prescribe actions and permissible and non-permissible action.

Moral Responsibility

Holding an individual accountable for their actions is the basic concept of moral responsibility. French (in White 1998) suggests that people are considered to be rational entities that can be held responsible and accountable for their actions.

Actions committed knowingly and freely are considered moral in nature and can therefore attract either praise or blame (Buchholz, 1989).

We accept that whilst a person has moral responsibility, there might be mitigating factors that can affect the extent of this responsibility and accountability. These could include a physical or psychological impairment that affects their ability to make informed choices, their ability to understand the context and consequences of their decisions and the seriousness of the action.

\\MELSTAFF\segonm$\Profile\NEW BUS ETHICS COURSE\CSR LAw\Courseware\1 Bus Ethics\Icons\Icons - core\Activity.pngExercise 1 Holding an Individual Accountable

Try to think of a situation where the consequences of a decision made by an individual might be extremely serious, yet we would not hold that individual accountable for their actions.

Now think of a situation where an individual would be held responsible for their actions- try to identify the type of consequences that the individual may be subjected to.

Lastly think of a decision that might be considered as unethical, yet would not be considered as significant- perhaps even trivial in nature

Prepare a brief summary of your views for discussion in class and online student post your responses in the discussion board

Personhood?

According to French (in White 1993) there are different notions of what constitutes personhood, based on Locke’s account of personal identity.

· Firstly, the term person is described by Locke as embodying the concept of conscious action, these actions having merit and so belongs only to intelligent agents capable of law, happiness and misery.

· Secondly, that conscious persons have memory are capable of extending themselves into the past and thereby become concerned and accountable for their actions.

However, as was identified in the introductory Unit, not all people are automatically morally responsible for their actions. Personhood is conferred on people when:

1. They are considered sentient and fully aware of themselves.

2. The capacity to make rational and informed decisions.

3. They have the capacity to assess the impact (consequences) of their actions on others.

4. They have memory that allows for reflection on past practice as a means of projecting judgments into the future

5. They have and act with “purposefulness”, which can also be referred to as intent- a critical feature for assigning moral responsibility.

A person satisfying these conditions is considered to be a “moral agent.” However, there are limits to this concept that can result in some cases, in a failure to adequately establish moral responsibility. For example, a deceased person still has certain legal rights such as to have his or her will executed, yet we cannot establish a deceased person as a moral agent because we cannot hold them accountable for anything (Werhane and Donaldson 1993).

Distinguishing between accountability and responsibility.

When assigning moral praise or blame for an action and its consequences, we are making judgments about others. An important distinction is to look at the action and the “individual” who caused it to occur- the perpetrator of the act and then to determine whether they should be held accountable- i.e. do they satisfy the conditions of personhood? In this sense, we recognize the action and the outcome have moral significance, however holding the individual responsible for these is not necessarily the same thing!

The two terms “accountability” and responsibility” are related, often used interchangeably and sometimes have slightly different meanings in different disciplines. Within organisations we generally refer to a person’s responsibility in terms of the power or discretion they have carrying out designated functions or tasks with clearly defined boundaries as to what they are allowed to do- this is linked to the notion of legitimate power and hierarchical level. We would describe their accountability in terms of their performance in meeting or exceed those standards. However, when examining aspect of morality and assigning moral praise or blame it is useful to use a slightly different interpretation.

We a can distinguish between the two in terms when examining a moral act in the following way:

· Accountability: An individual is accountable if they committed an action or took a decision that results in an outcome.

· We are merely identifying the perpetrator of the act.

· Responsibility: The issue of responsibility is linked to personhood and whether the individual had the capacity to make an informed decision.

The distinction between accountability and responsibility allows us to consider several options in examining a moral act

· An individual could be both accountable and responsible for an act.

· An individual may be accountable for an act but not responsible for it.

· An individual may be responsible for an act but may not have committed it.

The distinction between accountability and responsibility raises the issue of what is a person and what is not. We recognize human beings as “persons” satisfying the conditions of personhood.n For example aanimals are not persons and we do not hold them responsible for their actions as they are typically motivated by matters of survival. We often refer to this as concepts of “natural law”. Whilst they do undertake some form of decision making the extent to which this is considered rational is limited. Thus, we do not thus classify animals as sentient and as moral agents. This does not means that they do not have emotions, feel pain and also have rights.

Similarly, the study of morality and personhood raise questions as to whether all humans are automatically conferred as moral agents. It is a debatable and controversial aspect of personhood as to when do we recognize an individual as satisfying the conditions of personhood and thus their capacity to make moral decisions?

Similarly, can a person “lose” their capacity thus no longer satisfy the conditions of personhood?

These questions are relevant in many contexts for people such as:

· when is a fetus regarded as sentient,

· when does a child have the cognitive ability to make informed decisions

· when a mental illness affects a person’s ability to make decisions.

We can establish a clear link to the concept of cognition and the capacity of individuals to make informed and rational decisions. As Kohlberg noted a number of factors including age; context and education affects cognitive moral developed.

Morality and Law

Buchholz (1989) suggests that law is the minimum moral standard of a society. In other words it is the formal (written) basic standard of behaviour expected of individuals in a society. DeGeorge highlights hat morality and law share concerns over issues of societal importance and have certain principles, obligations and criteria of evidence in common. “Law is the public’s agency for translating morality into explicit social guidelines and practices and stipulating punishment for offences (2010 p4).

Moral Maturity?

Our ability to make ethical or moral decisions is in part determined by our cognitive ability to analyse the context of the decision and how we relate to others either affected by or who have some interest in the decisions. American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg developed one of the best explanations for how people make ethical decisions. He found that people need to decide what course of action is morally right and then they must choose the morally right path over others. Kohlberg’s theory primarily focuses on the first process, the process by which people decide what is morally right (French & Granose 1996, Velasquez, 2006, Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015).

His approach suggests that there are three basic levels of cognitive ability, preconventioanl, conventional and post conventional, which we all go through sequentially, each with 2 stages of development.

Pre-conventional level:

Stage 1: punishment & obedience

In stage one, the decision as to what behaviour is right is largely determined by the rewards and punishments and favours associated with the action. This suggests people follow laws and rules automatically because they do not want the negative consequences, e.g. reprimands, fines etc. or, because they are rewarded through prizes, salaries etc.

Stage 2: fairness to oneself

At stage two, recognition of personal reward and satisfaction and a duty to oneself develops. This concept is known as reciprocity. The “scratch my back and I’ll scratch your”. People engage in behaviour that they know will yield possible favours in return, or feel obliged to repay a debt.

Conventional level:

At this level people have recognised the importance of a group of society, usually family or some important group. e.g. and organisational work group or the company. What is determined as right is generally living up to the roles and expectations others, unfulfilling duties and obligations and following rules and laws.

Stage 3: emphasizes others rather than themselves

At stage three what is morally right is that which either helps or is approved by others close to you. The important concepts are those of trust and loyalty. So people may do what is asked of them by a boss or managers because they want to please them or because others whom we respect say its important to follow the directions of our bosses.

Stage 4: right is determined by considering one’s duty to society

At stage four our perspective broadens to consider the wider societal group. People tend to make decisions based against the agreed duties and following rules which are designed to promote the common good.

Post Conventional level:

At this level people have gone beyond notions of self interest or referent groups, rather they make decisions based on more principled notions consistent with justice and rights.

Stage 5: concern for upholding the basic rights, values, & legal contracts of society

In this stage people still regard rules and laws are important, because they maintain social cohesion (known as the concept of social contract), however people are prepared to change laws for usual social purposes. In addition people consider the concept of moral law, that which exist beyond the written law as contributing toward societal well being

Stage 6: right is determined by universal ethical principles

At stage six people have moved to a higher level in which the notion of universal laws and principles are applied. Decisions are made by an appeal to what individuals believe are universal truths

As our level of cognitive moral maturity develops, so does our ability to understand more complex ethical dimensions to the problems that confront us. However, he also contends that people can only understand the perspectives and decisions of others within their own level or those below and that they struggle to understand those above. A simplified version of the model is presented below.

Principles

Is my behaviour guided by

universally accepted principles?

Conformity

What behaviour must I follow to

Be accepted by my peers or by

my society?

Self interest

What course of action will result in

Positive or negative outcomes for me?

(Adapted by M Segon from Kohlberg’s Ethical Decision Making Model – Practical Business Ethics, French and Granose, Prentice Hall 1996)

People who operate at the “Self interest” level, see the world in very “black and white terms.” They view decisions as acceptable if they gain personally from an action and or if it is legal or defined practice. Conversely they see practice as unacceptable if they receive punishment or self-interest is threatened. This tends to emphasise short-term thinking.

People who operate at the “Conformity” level place emphasis on relationships and fitting into groups and following group norms, moving from small to large group as they progress. What is important to these people is belonging and acceptance, thus people may follow norms or undertake actions that are seen as acceptable to the group or an individual within the group, i.e. the leader, which may be contrary to other groups, organisational polices or even laws. Think about the purpose of organisational culture and its importance in establishing and maintaining behaviours. This level may also explain why “good” people can become corrupted by unethical systems and cultures.

People who operate at the “Principles” level are able to examine issues from a much broader perspective using universal concepts and able to see longer term implications of decisions.

Kohlberg suggests that when a dilemma presents itself, which cannot be resolved, explained, or seems to contradict our own current level reasoning, we gain maturity and move through the stages. This can occur through general interaction with others, peers, colleagues or through more formal methods such as education and training (French & Granose 1996; Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2015).

Kohlberg’s approach is not about understanding the action. In fact, people operating at different levels may in fact make the same decision or take the same action. What this concept seeks to explain is how they came to make the decision. It helps explain how they see the world and the critical factors, which influence their decisions (French & Granose 1996).

\\MELSTAFF\segonm$\Profile\NEW BUS ETHICS COURSE\CSR LAw\Courseware\1 Bus Ethics\Icons\Icons - additional\Reflection.png Which level are you?

As you are negotiating with a fleet representative for a contract to supply your company with over 100 new vehicles, the representative leaves to take a call. You notice that they have left behind some important documents on their minimum and maximum financials and commission on the contract.

Do you look at the document?

· Outline the decision you think an individual would take acting at the three levels of Kohlberg’s model.

· Describe what you believe to be the “right” action.

· (Which level do you think you are operating from?)

· Make a note of your views for a possible class discussion.

Other Moral Perspectives: The Ethics Bank

American Philosopher Tom Donaldson (1998) in an address to the European Business Ethics Network proposed that another way of looking at behaviour is transactional.

He suggested that some people’s approach to ethical decision is not based on notions of what is right or wrong. Rather it is a conscious decision to follow an action, which they know to be wrong, but argue that it is mitigated by other good deeds; they have done in the past.

Thus, the concept of the ethics bank in which an ethics balance is established where good behaviour could be deposited to allow the occasional withdrawal via bad behaviour.

This concept appears to have greater relevance at an organisational level where organisation who create harm or do not meet their obligations in one area, may engage in CSR activities as a trade-off.

Kohlberg’s model helps identify why people make decisions based on their ability to assess the level of ethical complexity associated with a decision. It assumes that individuals attempt to make ethical decisions based on their level of cognitive moral development. However, it does not identify the characteristics of individuals who clearly engage in unethical practice.

Other Moral Perspectives: Benjamin’s Moral Typologies

Benjamin developed such a model that identifies four personality types, which are unlikely to uphold integrity (French and Granose, 1995, pp 166-9).

· The moral chameleon: The anxiety for acceptance and to avoid dispute means they are prepared to abandon ‘previously avowed principles in order to placate others’.

· The opportunist: These are those who are able to continually move on from initial moral positions to gain short-term advantages.

· The hypocrite: These individuals have ‘one set of values for public display and another that they keep hidden, but which actually motivate their behaviour’

· The self-deceiver: These are perhaps the most dangerous individuals. Such people often espouse high integrity behaviour and fervently believe they uphold their well intentioned values, without being aware that their actions suggest otherwise

Morality and Relativism

Given this discussion, it is clear that moral principles and perspectives are linked to a variety of sources including culture, religion, education, intelligence amongst others. What should also be clear is that these factors differ based on place and time. Ethical relativism claims that differing views held by different societies can both be right. This is based on assumptions that moral judgements are neither right nor wrong but simply reflect differing opinion or feeling and that judgements are culturally determined, or may change over the passing of time. Velasquez, Andre, Shanks and Meyer (1992); LaFollette 1(991) and Buchholz (1989) describe ethical relativism as the theory that morality, and ethical principles or judgments, are relative to the norms of one’s culture and whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced and the time in which it was practiced. Thus, as Bierstaker (2009) identifies, the same action could be argued as morally correct in one culture but be morally wrong or corrupt in another.

The differing perspectives on morality is referred to as relativism- and is the focus of the next topic of the unit.

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MGMT20134 | Topic 2 | Page 2

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Morality Topic 2.ppt

MGMT 21034: Business Ethics and Sustainability
Morality, Moral Development and Moral Reasoning

Associate Professor Michael Segon

Learning Objectives

The objectives of this topic are:

  • To define morality and understand its function in society
  • To understand the relationship between morality and law
  • To understand the concept of personhood and its characteristics
  • To understand the differences between accountability and responsibility
  • To develop the ability to analyse action and determine who is accountable and who is morally responsible
  • To understand the levels of moral maturity and how people decide between what is right and wrong.

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Morality

Arnold, Beauchamp and Bowie (2018) state that morality refers to the rules or principles sf moral conduct.

Morality suggests a social institution composed of a set of standards pervasively acknowledged by the members of a culture

In this context morality is concerned with practices defining right and wrong

Morality

Buchholz (1989) states that morality refers to judgements of Right and wrong, good and bad.

Three characteristics are associated with such judgements.

  • whether the judgements are universal
  • Whether the importance overrides other considerations
  • Whether moral praise and blame can be accorded to morally right and wrong actions

Moral Act

  • As we identified in the first unit, we hold a person morally accountable for their actions when they action with intent and a conscious of their actions.
  • A moral act is usually described as one that is committed knowingly and freely.
  • In other words for an individual to be conferred moral praise or blame they must satisfy certain conditions.
  • These conditions relate to the knowledge that they were capable of making the decision without any other factors that make affect their decision- these are the conditions of personhood-

Morality

Buchholz (1989) states that morality refers to judgements of Right and wrong, good and bad.

Three characteristics are associated with such judgements.

  • 1. whether the judgements are universal
  • 2. Whether the importance overrides other considerations
  • 3. Whether moral praise and blame can be accorded to morally right and wrong actions

Moral principles

Moral principles are statements or general guides as to what is morally right or wrong, what can be considered good or bad, or what we should or ought, or shouldn’t or ought not to do.

They may take various forms including:

  • Laws
  • Policies
  • Cultural principles
  • Spiritual or religious beliefs
  • etc

Moral standards

  • Moral Standards concern behaviour that can be of serious consequence to human welfare that can profoundly injure or benefit people.
  • Moral standards take priority over other standards, including self interest. they are more important than other considerations in guiding our actions.
  • The soundness of the standard depends on the adequacy of the reasons that support or justify them.

Characteristics of moral principles

Moral principles can be characterised on the basis of several conditions:

Prescriptive: They are applied consistently

Universal: They apply to all situations without exception

The override other considerations

They are public and known

They are practical and serve to guide action

Etiquette and morality

  • Etiquette refers to any special code of behaviour.
  • Rules are established in terms of acceptable conduct in certain circumstances.
  • If you violate the rules then you are considered ill mannered, uncivilised etc.,
  • Scrupulous observance of the rules of etiquette may not make one moral, in fact it may camouflage moral issues.

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Approaches to Ethics

We typically operate in two levels:

1. personal level in which we wish to judge and act in accordance to our conscience

2. the third person level in which we wish to judge the actions of others from an objective point of view, but do not wish to know or cannot know the subjective state of the one performing the action.

Problems with moral judgements

Where do our moral standards come from ?

Some argue that moral principles are established by:

religion

an issue of ethical relativism

a function of the society that we are examining

our parents and upbringing

schools and universities

peers and friends

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Religion, spirituality and morality

  • Any religion provides its followers, believers, with a world view which will involve a degree of moral instruction, values and commitments.
  • Religion involves not only a formal system of worship but also prescriptions for social relationships.
  • Similarly spiritual beliefs that are not religious, including many indigenous value systems, provide rules of conduct that allow for a functioning society.

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Conscience or morality?

  • Conscience is the development that occurs over time as we internalise the moral codes and instructions given to us by parents and authority figures.
  • As we become older we become morally independent, thus our own moral codes and those of the developed conscience may differ.

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Morality and law

Morality and law share concerns over matters of basic social importance ad have in common certain principles, o obligations and criteria of evidence.

Law is the public’s agency for translating morality into explicit social guidelines and practices and stipulating punishment for offences.

In theory and practice, law codifies customs, ideas, beliefs and a society’s moral values

Law reflects the changes that occur in a society’s outlook in its view of right and wrong.

Law can be viewed as the minimum moral standard of a society.

(Arnold, Beauchamp and Bowie, 2018)

Morality and law

  • An important issue is whether a person found guilty of an offence under “law” is similarly morally guilty?
  • Such judgements are not necessarily correct but rather depend on the moral acceptability of the law upon which the decision has been reached.
  • Similarly both law and morality change over time which adds to the complexity of aligning law and morality in all situations.

(Arnold, Beauchamp and Bowie, 2018)

Moral position and reasoning

A moral position is one that can be supported through reason ( rationale)

Moral reasoning is the process of using rational decision making to analyze and using factual information to support a particular position or decision that has moral dimension

Moral reasoning requires that:

  • The decisions that are impartial
  • the arguments that support the reasoning are valid
  • the arguments that support the reasoning are sound

Personhood

Personhood is conferred on people when:

They are considered sentient and fully aware of themselves.

The capacity to make rational and informed decisions.

They have the capacity to assess the impact (consequences) of their actions on others.

They have memory that allows for reflection on past practice as a means of projecting judgments into the future

They have and act with “purposefulness”, which can also be referred to as intent- a critical feature for assigning moral responsibility.

A person satisfying these conditions is considered to be a “moral agent” also sometimes referred to as a moral actor.”

Accountability for a moral act

  • When assigning moral praise or blame for an action and its consequences, we are making judgments about others.
  • An important distinction is to look at the action and the “individual” who caused it to occur- the perpetrator of the act and then to determine whether they should be held accountable- i.e. do they satisfy the conditions of personhood?
  • In this sense we recognize the action and the outcome have moral significance, however holding the individual responsible for these is not necessarily the same thing!

Moral accountability and responsibility

  • The two terms ”accountability” and responsibility” are related, often used interchangeably and sometimes have slightly different meanings in different disciplines.
  • We a can distinguish between the two in terms when examining a moral act in the following way
  • Accountability: An individual is accountable if they committed an action to took a decision that results in an outcome.
  • We are merely identifying the perpetrator of the act.
  • Responsibility: The issue of responsibility is linked to personhood and whether the individual had the capacity to make an informed decision.

Accountability and Responsibility

The distinction between accountability and responsibility allows us to consider several options in examining a moral act

  • An individual could be both accountable and responsible for an act.
  • An individual may be accountable for an act but not responsible for it.
  • An individual may be responsible for an act but may not have committed it.

Factors that mitigate moral responsibility

Mitigating factors that can lessen a person’s moral responsibility.

  • 1. circumstances that leave a person uncertain about what he or she is doing
  • 2. circumstances that make it difficult for a person to avoid an action
  • 3. circumstances that minimise, but does not completely remove a person’s involvement in an act

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Persons and Non-Persons

  • The distinction between accountability and responsibility raises the issue of what is a person and what is not.
  • Generally speaking we recognize human beings as “persons” satisfying the conditions of personhood.
  • Animals are not persons and we do not hold them responsible for their actions. For example, shark that attacks and kills a swimmer can be identified as committing the act which results in a bad outcome.
  • Yet their behaviour was “natural”- we would not hold the shark morally responsible for the act.

Humans and personhood

A debatable and controversial aspect of personhood is at what point do we recognize an individual as satisfying the conditions of personhood and thus their capacity to make moral decisions?
Similarly can a person “lose” their capacity thus no longer satisfy the conditions of personhood?

  • These questions are relevant in many contexts for people such as:
  • when is a fetus regarded as sentient,
  • when does a child have the cognitive ability to make informed decisions
  • when a mental illness affects a person’s ability to make decisions

Moral maturity

  • Our ability to make ethical or moral decisions is in part determined by our cognitive ability to analyse the context of the decision and how we relate to others either affected by or who have some interest in the decisions.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg found that people need to decide what course of action is morally right and then they must choose the morally right path over others.
  • Kohlberg’s theory primarily focuses on the first process, the process by which people decide what is morally right (French & Granose 1996, Velasquez, 2006, Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015).

Cognitive moral maturity

  • Kolhberg suggests that there are three basic levels of cognitive ability which we all go through sequentially. As our level of cognitive moral maturity develops, so does our ability to understand more complex ethical dimensions to the problems that confront us.
  • However, he also contends that people can only understand the perspectives and decisions of others within their own level or those below and that they struggle to understand those above.

(French & Granose 1996, Velasquez, 2006, Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015).

Cognitive ability

  • Our ability to make ethical or moral decisions is in part determined by our cognitive ability to analyse the context of the decision and how we relate to others either affected by or who have some interest in the decisions.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg found that people need to decide what course of action is morally right and then they must choose the morally right path over others.
  • Kohlberg’s theory primarily focuses on the first process, the process by which people decide what is morally right (French & Granose 1996, Velasquez, 2006, Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015).

(Freeman, 2005)

Cognitive Moral Development Model

Kohlberg’s six stages:

Pre-conventional level:

1. punishment & obedience

2. fairness to oneself

Conventional level:

3. emphasizes others rather than themselves

4. right is determined by considering one’s duty to society

Post Conventional level:

5. concern for upholding the basic rights, values, & legal contracts of society

6. right is determined by universal ethical principles

(Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2011, French and Granose, 1995)

Pre-conventional

Stage 1: punishment & obedience

In stage one, the decision as to what behaviour is right is largely determined by the rewards and punishments and favours associated with the action.

This suggests people follow laws and rules automatically because they do not want the negative consequences, e.g. reprimands, fines etc. or, because they are rewarded through prizes, salaries etc.

Stage 2: fairness to oneself

At stage two, recognition of personal reward and satisfaction and a duty to oneself develops.

This concept is known as reciprocity. The “scratch my back and I’ll scrat

People engage in behaviour that they know will yield possible favours in return, or feel obliged to repay a debt.

(Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015, French and Granose, 1995).

Conventional

At this level people have recognised the importance of a group of society, usually family or some important group. e.g. and organisational work group or the company.

What is determined as right is generally living up to the roles and expectations others, unfulfilling duties and obligations and following rules and laws.

Stage 3: emphasizes others rather than themselves

At stage three what is morally right is that which either helps or is approved by others close to you.

The important concepts are those of trust and loyalty. So people may do what is asked of them by a boss or managers because they want to please them or because others whom we respect say its important to follow the directions of our bosses.

Stage 4: right is determined by considering one’s duty to society

At stage four our perspective broadens to consider the wider societal group.

People tend to make decisions based against the agreed duties and following rules which are designed to promote the common good.

(Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015, French and Granose, 1995)

Post-conventional

At this level people have gone beyond notions of self interest or referent groups, rather they make decisions based on more principled notions consistent with justice and rights.

Stage 5: concern for upholding the basic rights, values, & legal contracts of society

In this stage people still regard rules and laws are important, because they maintain social cohesion (known as the concept of social contract), however people are prepared to change laws for usual social purposes.

In addition people consider the concept of moral law, that which exist beyond the written law as contributing toward societal well being

Stage 6: right is determined by universal ethical principles

At stage six people have moved to a higher level in which the notion of universal laws and principles are applied.

Decision are made by an appeal to what individuals believe are universal truths.

(Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2015, French and Granose, 1995)

CMD Summarized

Principle based

Is my behaviour guided by

universally accepted principles?

Conformity

What behaviour do I need to
demonstrate to be accepted by my
peers / my organisation?

Self interest

If I behave in this way, will
I be punished or rewarded?

Stages of Moral Development

As people progress through stages of CMD, and with time, education, and experience, they may change their values and ethical behavior

Kohlberg’s approach seeks to explain is how they came to make the decision.

It helps explain how they see the world and the critical factors which influence their decisions.

The ethics bank as a moral concept

American Philosopher Tom Donaldson (1998) in an address to the European Business Ethics Network proposed that another way of looking at behaviour is transactional.

  • He suggested that some people’s approach to ethical decision is not based on notions of what is right or wrong. Rather it is a conscious decision to follow an action which they know to be wrong, but argue that it is mitigated by other good deeds they have done in the past.
  • Thus the concept of the ethics bank in which an ethics balance is established where good behaviour could be deposited so as to allow the occasional withdrawal via bad behaviour.
  • This concept appears to have greater relevance at an organisational level where organisation who create harm or do not meet their obligations in one area, may engage in CSR activities as a trade-off.

Benjamin’s moral typology

Kohlberg’s model helps identify why people make decisions based on their ability to assess the level of ethical complexity associated with a decision. It assumes that individuals attempt to make ethical decisions based on their level of cognitive moral development. However it does not identify the characteristics of individuals who clearly engage in unethical practice.

Benjamin developed such a model that identifies four personality types, which are unlikely to uphold integrity (French and Granose, 1995, pp 166-9).

  • The moral chameleon: anxiety for acceptance and to avoid dispute means they are prepared to abandon ‘previously avowed principles in order to placate others’.
  • The opportunist: are those who are able to continually move on from initial moral positions to gain short-term advantages.
  • The hypocrite have ‘one set of values for public display and another that they keep hidden, but which actually motivate their behaviour’
  • The self-deceiver: are perhaps the most dangerous. Such people often espouse high integrity behaviour and fervently believe they uphold their well intentioned values, without being aware that their actions suggest otherwise

Morality and Relativism

  • Given this discussion it is clear that moral principles and perspectives are linked to a variety of sources including culture, religion, education, intelligence amongst others.
  • What should also be clear is that these factors differ based on place and time.

    The differing perspectives on morality is referred to as relativism- and is the main focus of the next topic of the unit.

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