Ethics in Business and Communication: Common Ground or Incommensurable?

By Kacerauskas, Tomas | E+M Ekonomie a Management, January 2019 | Go to article overview

Ethics in Business and Communication: Common Ground or Incommensurable?


Kacerauskas, Tomas, E+M Ekonomie a Management


Introduction

The discourse--conversation--surrounding ethics has its roots in the Socratic and Platonic tradition, which displaced that of the pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales and Anaximander. Taking a rationalist approach, i.e. the inseparability of ethics from knowledge, Socrates and Plato entirely changed the landscape in terms of the epistemological discourse. Plato (2006) develops the idea of Socratic rationalistic ethics and considers good (alongside beauty) and justice as fundamental to reality. Aristotle (2011) holds that wise decisions are an indication of a virtuous way of life and a social order that is just. Unsurprisingly, in his view ethics is the common, indissoluble link between individual activity and social relations. Similarly, for Thomas Aquinas (1948-1949), ethics encompasses rules that govern our actions and virtues, both of which are milestones for the individual. Immanuel Kant (1997) stresses the rationalistic principle of ethics by appealing to practical reason, i.e. reason as a guide to practical activity.

Is ethics in business and communication possible to achieve in practice? According to Peter Drucker, "there is neither a separate ethics of business, nor is one needed" (1981). However, since the time of antiquity, professional ethics has been a subject for discussion. For example, (Bauman, 2018) is one scholar among many who analyses the historic background to business ethics based on the Platonic leadership model. General ethics can be adapted to suit different contexts, and whilst there may be no particular need to formulate separate ethics, one such adaptation as professional ethics or ethics that pertain to business and communication.

Different approaches and relationships apply to the matter of business and communication ethics. For example, (Enderle, 2018) explores the relationship between business ethics and social capital, whereas (Helfaya, 2018) considers the ethical principles of regional business from a Muslim perspective. The work of (Ladkin, 2018) traverses business ethics with regard to aesthetics, and (San-Jose & Retolaza, 2018) use certain Delphic methods as a framework to analyse ethics in the business world. The scholars speak about moral decision making (Nadurak, 2018), uncertainties associated with ethics (Holub, 2018), moral revolutions (Gonzalez, 2017), contemporary activities in the context of practical philosophy (Belas & Belasova, 2017) etc.

In the contemporary discourse on ethics, numerous questions arise: Is ethics in business or communication deserving of a category in its own right? Is there such a thing as global universal ethics? Do ethical attitudes change in response to the evolving social context/ environment? Can we speak of ethical bases being immutable? How do we define ethical maxims in business--negatively or positively? What is the relationship between business ethics and other professional ethics, including those of communication, and what of the personal qualities and belief systems of a business leader? What is the relationship between ethics and social capital in contemporary society that is increasingly polarized? Moreover, do ethical principles change depending on cultural and/or religious differences?

It may be that business and communication reside in very different spheres, although it is fair to say that business would not be possible in the absence of certain communication such as advertising. How, then, do we make valid comparisons between business and communication with regard to ethics? What is the relationship between both general ethics and regions as business and communication ethics? Finally, if we compare business ethics with communication ethics, what does this reveal in each of them?

The paper consists of two parts. The first part presents the main problems of business ethics. The second part analyses the main issues of communication ethics and makes the comparison between business ethics and communication ethics. …

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