Commerce and Morality

Commerce and Morality

Commerce and Morality

Commerce and Morality

Excerpt

I thought Calder would have been interested, but bankers' ethics as usual kept me quiet. - Dick Francis, Banker

Ethics is the discipline concerned with what standards are to guide our choices in life. This field of concerns arises in response to the question that apparently all persons must ask, namely, "How should I conduct myself?" And business ethics is concerned with the implications of the best answer to that question for one distinct area of human social life, commerce.

The basic assumptions of ethics are implicit in the slogan "Ought implies can." This means (a) if Bob ought to our should do something, he is free to choose to do or not to do it, and (b) some standard of conduct is identifiable with regard to Bob and other persons and their ability to make the right choice. So the two basic assumptions underlying ethics are that we all possess free will and that some ethical theory or system can be found that will provide us with standards for making the best choices in our lives.

Ethics or morality has, of course, been conceived differently. Some believe that it concerns values or the nature of goodness, but such a characterization is too broad. We could accept that existence of values or some idea of goodness without having to admit that ethics has any legitimate place in our lives. This is because when we concern ourselves with ethical or moral values, it is only those values or that kind of goodness that we can be responsible for achieving or neglecting that are at issue. (Even the subjects of botanists or zoologists can involve values. Whether a living thing is growing well or badly involves a [nonmoral] evaluation of it.)

Both of the assumptions of ethics are controversial. Free will is often denied or at least disputed, especially by those who hold science in high . . .

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