Ethics in Business: Faith at Work

By James M. Childs Jr. | Go to book overview

9

BEYOND CERTAINTY

One would think that the notion of moving beyond certainty is a bad fit with previous chapters, in which the [beyond] we were seeking in each case was presented as an attempt to move beyond an ethically less adequate approach to something ethically more adequate. Moving beyond certainty in ethics would seem to be an undesirable course, maybe even nonsensical. However, undue confidence of moral certainty in matters of ethical decision is often problematic.

In chapter 1 I observed that one of the factors contributing to the lack of dialogue between the church and the business world is the mistaken idea that [Christian] ethics really boils down to a few commonly held and perfectly clear rules of conduct. When persons also believe that the application of these rules is equally clear—and they often do believe this —the conclusion is easily reached that probing dialogue about ethics is really not needed; we simply need to weed out the unethical people!

Not long ago at a luncheon discussion of business ethics, I heard an executive from a nationally known company make a remark that is pertinent here. He observed that, while many CEOS firmly believe that good ethics is good business and believe that they practice that conviction, the way their organization is structured and the expectations they impose upon their managers show that they really do not grasp what [good ethics] involve—a more comprehensive reform of the corporate culture than usually happens.

Inadequate discernment of the complexity, difficulty, and ambiguity of many ethical decisions can lead to an unwarranted certainty and overconfidence in our judgments. This not only gets in the way of dialogue but also can produce an almost arrogant rigidity. More important, a byproduct of ethical overconfidence is often a lack of sensitivity in understanding the situation at issue and the needs of the people involved.

-121-

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Ethics in Business: Faith at Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1: Bridging the Shareability Gap 1
  • 2: From Being a Nobody to Being a Somebody 14
  • 3: The Not-So-Secular World 28
  • 4: From Dualism to Dialogue 42
  • 5: Beyond the Moral Minimum 56
  • 6: Beyond Leadership to Servant Leadership 71
  • 7: Beyond Affirmative Action 86
  • 8: Beyond Mere Survival 102
  • 9: Beyond Certainty 121
  • 10: Beyond the Company Walls 136
  • Notes 149
  • Index 163
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