ETHICS AT WORK. Basic Readings in Business Ethics. – William H. Shawn.

ETHICS AT WORK. Basic Readings in Business Ethics. – William H. Shawn.


Summary Selected Chapters.


Chapter One. A Defence of Philosophical Business Ethics. - Roger Crisp

Business Ethics. It is a set of principles or reasons which should govern the conduct of business, how people should act. They are philosophical efforts of humans to understand business principles.

Philosophical Scepticism. There are no principles for philosophical business ethics to uncover. Egoism- Ethics concern the relations to others and the environment, but rationality suggest that you should govern them according to your own interests. According to moral theory, you should be concerned about everyone’s happiness, and being impartial with moral principles in business have a little force against the rationality of self-interest. Moral principles accepted in different societies now and in the past have changed, this huge variation suggest that there is no truth and moral principles are different in different cultures.

The Abstracteness of Philosophy. There is a gap between philosophy and real life and moral philosophy can be abstract, general principles and their application require interpretation for work as guides for real life. Because people don’t consider business as a topic of dead or life, its practitioners don’t go much for ethical thinking which is a mistake, because business affects peoples lives all the time.

Philosophy as an idle wheel. Philosophy has turned into a specialized discipline and its going far away from the common people. Business people should be encouraged to think philosophically by any means at our disposal. Education in philosophical business ethics is a part of the moral education of business people in general.

Endless disagreement. The disagreement between cultures is sometimes used by philosophers to suggest there is no truth to behave in ethics. Business ethics is not seeking to explain, but to justify. Reasons don’t operate like that, one person can have more than one reason to do something. You don’t have to choose a single ethical theory and stick with it, you can take what seems better from different theories and make one of all of them. The ideal conditions are intelligence and impartiality on the part of investigator  and the necessary resources. Shutting down channels of communication between philosophers and business people can only be an obstacle to search the truth.

Immoral Ethics. Intellectual and practical toleration are essential if progress is to be made in ethics. Business ethicists require a slit mind, they must recognize that the disagreements that exist between equally serious, impartial and reflective investigators make them selves owners of the full truth.


Chapter Five. When Is “Everyone’s Doing It“ a Moral Justification? – Ronald M. Green.

In business people often give “Everyone’s Doing It“ as a justification for their behavior, the actions of the competitors can pose difficult choices for moral managers.  Sometimes the fact that many others behave in a certain way is a proof that the conduct is not really harmful or undesirable. These five conditions provide a moral justification for this conduct, when is morally permissible to adopt an otherwise undesirable but prevalent practice.

1.     Avoiding from this behavior will cause you, people you care for, or people you are responsible, serious harm or loss.

2.     Participating in this behavior will not also cause significantly more harm or loss to others.

3.     Your engaging in the behavior will not lead others to participate in it in ways that are equally or more harmful, if it will become to public knowledge.

4.     Avoiding this behavior will not lead others to avoid it.

5.      If refraining this behavior will lead others to engage in this harmful ways than would have been otherwise.

By following these conditions is not required to act as others are doing. Moral decision in cases where others are acting in undesirable ways requires us to make a balance between conditions and to measure the harm of each condition. There is no magical solution to this balancing problem, the key for it  will be reasoning.


Isabel Schmidt