Morals & Ethical Principles

I Morals

moral/immoral/amoral/nonmoral

moral relativism/universalism/perspectivalism

Kohlberg’s levels of moral development

II Ethical Principles

“Alligator River Story”

Greg Smith

Choice of

Ethical

Perspective

Morality:

The social rules that govern & limit our conduct, especially the ultimate rules concerning right and wrong.

The basic guidelines for cooperative social existence.

Serves to restrain the purely self-interested desires in each of us in order to make it possible for all of us to live together.

 

When we make a decision or take an action we can be:

Moral – in compliance with moral standards

key operating questions of management is “is this action or decision fair to us and all stakeholders involved?”

 

Immoral – in opposition to moral standards

key operating question of management is “can we make money with this action or decision regardless of what it takes?”

 

Amoral – without consideration of moral standards

key operating question of management is “can we make money with this action or decision?”

 

Nonmoral – outside the sphere of moral concern

Moral standards get confused with:

Law Etiquette

Conscience

Corporate/Professional Codes

Religion

Moral Relativism:

The belief that morality is just a function of what a particular society happens to believe, that what is right is determined by what a society says is right.

abortion is condemned as immoral in Catholic Spain, but is practiced as a morally neutral form of birth control in Japan

 

Moral relativists believe that there is no absolute moral standard independent of culture, no universal definition of right or wrong.

polygamy, stealing, slavery have all been tolerated by the moral system of one society or another

 

Moral Universalism is the belief that variations in moral standards reflect different factual circumstances rather than fundamental differences in values.

Which is right?

It is good to emphasize that in viewing other cultures we should keep

an open mind and not simply dismiss their social practices.

Compromise position is Moral Perspectivalism,

the consideration of multiple perspectives while at the same time asserting universal truths.

Kohlberg’s Levels of Moral Development

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1. Preconventional Level:

– how we behave as infants & children

– emphasis in decisions is on ourselves

Stage 1 – Reaction to punishment – pain avoidance

Stage 2 – Seeking of rewards – praise, candy, trip to a movie

2. Conventional Level:

– child learns the importance of conforming to norms of society

Stage 3 – Good boy/nice girl morality – rewards such as feelings of warmth, loyalty acceptance from family & peers

Stage 4 – Law and order morality – certain norms are expected in society – individual sees himself as part of a larger social system

3. Postconventional Level:

– a more advanced notion of right or wrong than that which is conventionally articulated

– moral principles are internalized, seen as “right”

– focus is on humanity as a whole

– few people reach this level – most remain at Stage 4.

Stage 5 -Social contract orientation – view that individuals have rights given by society as a whole, that personal values are relative, and that consensus should be reached through process

Stage 6 – Universal ethical principle orientation – individual uses his or her self- chosen ethical principles to consistently do what is considered to be universally right

The relationship between morality, ethics and ethical theory

Moral/Ethical decisions have:

  • Extended consequences
  • Multiple alternatives
  • Mixed and complex outcomes
  • Uncertain consequences
  • Personal implications

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Ethical Principles/Decision Tools

Profit Maximization/Individualism Approach

Utilitarian Approach

Universalist/Categorical Imperative Approach

Rights/Rule of Law Approach

Justice Approach

Golden Rule Approach

Might = Right Approach

Duty to Care Approach

Organization Ethic Approach

Intuition Approach

Revelation Approach

Hedonistic Approach

Virtue Approach

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Ethical Principles

People can compare their anticipated actions and decisions with certain principles or belief sets that they hold to be true; most of us tend to pick and choose which principle to we abide, depending on the situation.

Utilitarianism one day, justice the next…depending on to whom we are speaking or what we are doing

It would take an entire philosophy course to fully explain all the various ethical principles and their respective founding philosophers, and so here is an overly-simplified list of some of the more commonly used principles:

Utilitarianism: * seek the greatest good for the greatest number of people

* does the good in this action outweigh the harm?

* if the consequences are good, the action is good

* focus is on the ends, not the means

Individualism: * an act is moral when it promotes the individual’s long term interests

* individual’s long-term interests ultimately lead to greater good

Rights: * all individuals have fundamental rights – claims or entitlements

* take an action or make a decision by vowing to respect the rights of others (free consent, privacy, freedom of conscience, free speech, due process, life & safety)

Justice: * individuals must be given what they are due, what they deserve

* act or make a decision that is fair to others (distributive, procedural, interactional, compensatory)

Golden Rule: * “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

* rooted in many religious traditions

Might=Right: * what is ethical is what an individual or company has the power to accomplish

Categorical Imperative (Immanuel Kant):

* take an action only if it can be consistently adopted by everyone else

* an action is morally right only when it can be considered a unversal law (can everyone do it?)

Organization Ethic: * the needs of inidividuals should be subordinated to the greater good of the organization (whatever that may be – business, church, school, state)

* this is the age of the large organization – individuals should take actions conistent with the goals of the organization

Intuition: * follow your gut feeling when making moral decisions

Revelation: * prayer or appeal to higher beings will reveal the right thing to do

Hedonistic: * “If it feels good, do it”

Profit Maximization/Individualism

Key Principle

The objective of a decision should be to maximize the corporation’s/individual’s profit and shareholder value in the long term.

“Do what’s best for you/your company”

Profit Maximization/Individualism

Criticisms/Weaknesses

Assumptions of open and free competition often not met.

Can cause undue harm to some stakeholders.

Often does not account for “externalities.”

Puts a great deal of pressure on the law to reflect society’s values.

Biases may affect decision making.

Utilitarianism

Key Principles

The greatest good for the greatest number.

The ends justify the means.

Utilitarianism

Criticisms/Weaknesses

It could be argued that sometimes harm cannot be outweighed by any benefit. That is, sometimes the ends can’t justify the means.

Calculating the harm and benefit can be difficult. Some argue that the ends can never truly be foreseen. So the focus needs to be on the means.

Biases (personal, situational, organizational) can inappropriately affect benefit/harm assessment.

Universalism

Key Principles

Take an action only if you’d get what you want if everyone did it, under equivalent circumstances.

“Do the right thing”

Universalism

Criticisms/Weaknesses

Difficult to “never lie,” yet a pure application of universalism says lying is always wrong.

Some would argue that there aren’t many things that are wrong “no matter what.”

Biases (personal, situational, organizational) can affect how “equivalent circumstance” and “inappropriately” are defined. Could potentially justify any action.

Rights/Rule of Law

Key Principles

Do what you have the right to do, as reflected in our legal system.

“Obey the law.”

Rights/Rule of Law

Criticisms/Weaknesses

What is legal or illegal does not always reflect a society’s moral standards – “moral minimum.”

Not all in society have equal ability to influence the legal system.

What if you intentionally break the law and accept the punishment: Is that ethical?

Hard to always obey every law. Where to draw the line?

Justice

Key Principle

What is fair for one should be fair for all.

“Do what is fair.”

Criticisms/Weaknesses

Treating people equally may not mean treating them the same.

Virtue Ethics

Key Principle

Develop individual character (virtues) and you will necessarily make the right decision.

Virtues: wisdom, prudence, justice, fortitude, courage, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, temperance

Criticisms/Weaknesses

Assumes “good” people will make “good decisions.

Considerations in making ethical decisions…

Ethics Check Questions

  • Is the action legal? RIGHTS
  • Is the action right and fair? JUSTICE
  • Does it promote win-win relationships? UTILITARIANISM
  • Is it appropriate for both short and long term?
  • Does it comply with the firm’s values? ORGANIZATION ETHIC
  • Would I want everyone to know about this? UNIVERSALISM/CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE
  • How will I feel about myself? INTUITION

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THE ALLIGATOR RIVER STORY

 

There lived a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the same river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with dangerous alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went to ask Sinbad, a

riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him prior to the voyage. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory.

When Abigail told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and rejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Gregory getting his due. As the sun set on the horizon, people heard Abigail laughing at Gregory.

 

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How To Increase Moral/Ethical Awareness?

  • Study and understand ethical principles.
  • Become more aware of the institutions in which you live and work and how they relate to one another.
  • Make conscious your unconscious biases and prejudices.
  • Surround yourself with people who are trying to do well by others.

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1. Preconventional Level:

– how we behave as infants & children

– emphasis in decisions is on ourselves

Stage 1 – Reaction to punishment – pain avoidance

Stage 2 – Seeking of rewards – praise, candy, trip to a movie

2. Conventional Level:

– child learns the importance of conforming to norms of society

Stage 3 – Good boy/nice girl morality – rewards such as feelings of warmth, loyalty acceptance from family & peers

Stage 4 – Law and order morality – certain norms are expected in society – individual sees himself as part of a larger social system

3. Postconventional Level:

– a more advanced notion of right or wrong than that which is conventionally articulated

– moral principles are internalized, seen as “right”

– focus is on humanity as a whole

– few people reach this level – most remain at Stage 4.

Stage 5 -Social contract orientation – view that individuals have rights given by society as a whole, that personal values are relative, and that consensus should be reached through process

Stage 6 – Universal ethical principle orientation – individual uses his or her self- chosen ethical principles to consistently do what is considered to be universally right

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Ethical Principles

People can compare their anticipated actions and decisions with certain principles or belief sets that they hold to be true; most of us tend to pick and choose which principle to we abide, depending on the situation.

Utilitarianism one day, justice the next…depending on to whom we are speaking or what we are doing

It would take an entire philosophy course to fully explain all the various ethical principles and their respective founding philosophers, and so here is an overly-simplified list of some of the more commonly used principles:

Utilitarianism: * seek the greatest good for the greatest number of people

* does the good in this action outweigh the harm?

* if the consequences are good, the action is good

* focus is on the ends, not the means

Individualism: * an act is moral when it promotes the individual’s long term interests

* individual’s long-term interests ultimately lead to greater good

Rights: * all individuals have fundamental rights – claims or entitlements

* take an action or make a decision by vowing to respect the rights of others (free consent, privacy, freedom of conscience, free speech, due process, life & safety)

Justice: * individuals must be given what they are due, what they deserve

* act or make a decision that is fair to others (distributive, procedural, interactional, compensatory)

Golden Rule: * “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

* rooted in many religious traditions

Might=Right: * what is ethical is what an individual or company has the power to accomplish

Categorical Imperative (Immanuel Kant):

* take an action only if it can be consistently adopted by everyone else

* an action is morally right only when it can be considered a unversal law (can everyone do it?)

Organization Ethic: * the needs of inidividuals should be subordinated to the greater good of the organization (whatever that may be – business, church, school, state)

* this is the age of the large organization – individuals should take actions conistent with the goals of the organization

Intuition: * follow your gut feeling when making moral decisions

Revelation: * prayer or appeal to higher beings will reveal the right thing to do

Hedonistic: * “If it feels good, do it”

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