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Ethics Theories and Business Decisions

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A) What are virtues? How might one apply virtue ethics to business situations? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the virtue approach?

B) Examine the importance of rationality in the decision rationality making process as viewed by Kant.

C) Compare and contrast the following foundations for a theory of rights- Natural Rights Theory, Utility, and Deontology.

D) Describe the differences between deontological and teleological theories. Give an example of each.

E) Moral and Ethical are often used interchangeably. However, there are some subtle, yet important distinctions between the two. Compare and contrast the concepts of morality and ethics.

F) Describe the two forms of utilitarianism. How do they differ? How do they each support or endorse the Principle of Utility?

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Excellent questions! Let's take a closer look!

A) What are virtues? How might one apply virtue ethics to business situations? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the virtue approach?

A virtue shows the goodness of a person. Being a good and honest person is the highest virtue. Being a good friend, classmate, or student is a virtue. Looking at myself and my friends, I would like to have the virtue of patience and calmness. I would even like to find patience in my friends. The main virtue is to care for the gift God has given us, which is LIFE?a person should know how to behave, read, talk, and spend his/her life. http://www.iearnpk.org/Virtues/Virtues04/1.htm
By definition, virtue is linked to honesty and integrity of character, which is imperative to ethical behavior and corporate governance. It is therefore linked to all business situations because ethical principles are intended to guide all business behavior and decisions.

"Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as "Do unto others as you would be done by" and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent" (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/).

Strengths: Modern virtue ethics have emphasized the importance of moral education, not as the inculcation of rules but as the training of character; character is important in business, and it can be learned.

Weaknesses: "The virtue ethicist suggests that his theory avoids the complicated tasks of using a formula to figure out what we ought to do, by instead focusing on the kinds of persons we ought to be. The trouble lies in determining just how we know what kinds of persons we ought to be. Or, we might put it this way: how are we to determine just what the virtues are? Obviously, if we do not know what the virtues are, then telling people to "Live virtuously!" becomes an empty imperative. So, if we ask the virtue ethicist what the virtues are, what will he tell us?" (see http://www.iep.utm.edu/v/virtue.htm).

Other criticisms (weaknesses):

a. Self-Centeredness
b. Action-Guiding
c. Moral Luck (see http://www.iep.utm.edu/v/virtue.htm).

B) Examine the importance of rationality in the decision rationality making process as viewed by Kant.

The rational decision making model contains a number of assumptions, which makes it clear the importance of 'rationality" in the process:

? Problem clarity: The problem is clear and unambiguous. The decision maker is assumed to have complete information regarding situation.
? Known options: It is assumed the decision maker can identify all the relevant criteria and can list all the viable alternatives. Furthermore, the decision maker is aware of all possible consequences of each alternative.
? Clear preferences: Rationality assumes that the criteria and alternatives can be ranked and weighted to reflect their importance.
? Constant preferences: It's assumed that the specific decision criteria are constant and that the weights assigned to them are stable over time.
? No time or cost constraints: The rational decision maker can obtain full information about criteria and alternatives because it's assumed that there are no time or cost constraints.
? Maximum payoff: The rational decision maker will choose the alternative that yields the highest perceived value (see http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/rational-decision-making-models.html)

In other words, rationality assumes that the criteria and alternatives can be ranked and weighted to reflect their importance and that the decision-maker makes decisions in a rational way; she/he uses 'rationality' (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/).

C) Compare and contrast the following foundations for a theory of rights- Natural Rights Theory, Utility, and Deontology.

Natural rights - Natural rights can be viewed as particular expression of natural law. Natural rights are those due equally to all individuals, and so possessed by persons whether or not the rights have been recognized by their particular political-social system. For Locke, life, liberty and property were the top three categories; our Declaration of Independence famously lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Bill of Rights can also be viewed as a list of natural rights (speech, conscience, association, due process, etc.), given form in the language of our constitution. http://privacy.med.miami.edu/glossary/x_ism_guide.htm#actdeontology

Behaviors that have utility are the right actions. Utility is defined as happiness, pleasure, good consequences. In J. S. Mill's formulation, "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." (http://privacy.med.miami.edu/glossary/x_ism_guide.htm#actdeontology).

In contrast, deontology is an approach to ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions (Olson, Robert G. 1967. 'Deontological Ethics'. In Paul Edwards (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Collier Macmillan: 343). Let justice be done though the heavens fall! is one of its proud slogans. It is sometimes described as "duty" or "obligation" based ethics, because deontologists believe that ethical ...

Solution Summary

In terms of strengths and weaknesses, virtues and the virtue approach are explained, as well as its application to business situations. It also examines the importance of rationality in the decision rationality making process as viewed by Kant, and compares and contrast the foundations for four theories of rights e.g. Natural Rights Theory, Utility and Deontology. Differences between deontological and teleological theories are then explored through description and examples. Distinctions are made between moral and ethical. Two forms of utilitarianism are described, including how they differ and how each supports or endorses the Principle of Utility.

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