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Moral Reasoning. Ethics in Management Business & Administration The University of Winnipeg. Giving Voice to Values. “How to speak our mind when we know what’s right” Based on fundamental values such as honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, compassion. Value Conflicts.

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moral reasoning

Moral Reasoning

Ethics in Management

Business & Administration

The University of Winnipeg

giving voice to values
Giving Voice to Values
  • “How to speak our mind when we know what’s right”
    • Based on fundamental values such as honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, compassion
value conflicts
Value Conflicts
  • Explicit or implicit / External or internal pressure to
    • Act in a way inconsistent with our values
    • Suppress expression of our values
  • How do we “give voice” to our values effectively, to have positive impact with minimal “collateral damage”
giving voice to values4
Giving Voice to Values
  • “How to speak our mind when we know what’s right”
    • But suppose it’s not obvious what’s “right”?
ethical dilemmas
Ethical Dilemmas
  • Conflicts of legitimate responsibilities that cannot be reconciled without some tradeoff among our values
    • Moral theories may enhance our perspective on such situations, but in the end our actions will still be determined by our values.
fundamental moral theories
Fundamental Moral Theories
  • Approaches for considering the ethical merit of actions / decisions
    • Principles – standards of conduct
    • Consequences for relevant stakeholders
    • Purpose – overall goals and aspirations
  • Also useful as a basis for discussing ethical challenges with others
principles
Principles
  • Accepted, expected standards of conduct arising from fundamental values
  • Focus on means, not end results
  • Broadly generalizable
    • Applicable to all parties in all situations
examples of principles
Examples of Principles
  • Keep your promises
    • Underlying values: Honesty, Responsibility
  • The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”
    • Underlying values: Compassion, Fairness
  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    • Underlying values: Respect, Fairness
importance of principles
Importance of Principles
  • Fundamental to providing stability to society (and an economy)
  • Guard against inappropriate means even for desirable ends
  • Can be a compelling basis for consensus, unity, motivation for collective action
limitations of principles
Limitations of Principles
  • Principles by nature are very general
    • Often difficult to relate principles to specific actions / situations
  • Principles are independent of consequences
consequentialism
Consequentialism
  • Moral worth of actions assessed in terms of their anticipated consequences
    • Consequences can be positive and / or negative, and of various natures
examples of consequentialism
Examples ofConsequentialism
  • “Ends justify the means”
  • Cost / benefit analysis
  • Utilitarianism
    • “The greatest good for the greatest number”
  • Ethical egoism
    • “What’s in it for me?”
importance of consequentialism
Importance ofConsequentialism
  • Practical – keeps us in touch with reality and with the fact that our actions (or choice not to act) will have consequences
  • Easy to understand and discuss; good basis for communicating rationales to others
challenges of consequentialism
Challenges ofConsequentialism
  • Consequences for whom?
  • Consequences over what time frame?
    • “In the long run, we are all dead.”
        • Economist John Maynard Keynes
  • Difficult to objectively net positive consequences of one type with negative consequences of a totally different nature
  • Future consequences are uncertain
checks and balances
Checks and Balances
  • Principled Reasoning
    • Keeps us on the “straight and narrow”
  • Consequential Reasoning
    • Keeps us in touch with reality, and the fact that our actions (or choice not to act) will have consequences.
purposive reasoning
Purposive Reasoning
  • Actions are ethical or not depending on their relationship to the fundamental purpose (“What are we here for, why do we exist?”) of the entity taking them or of the context in which they will take place.
an example of purposive reasoning
An example ofPurposive Reasoning
  • Should the Business & Administration department offer university credit courses on how to use SAP programs?
    • (SAP is the world's largest business software company)
an example of purposive reasoning18
An example ofPurposive Reasoning
  • Should the Business & Administration department offer university credit courses on how to use SAP programs?
  • What is the purpose of a university?
    • To prepare people for employment?
    • To develop people’s intellect?
importance of purposive reasoning
Importance ofPurposive Reasoning
  • Keeps us focused on what’s really important – avoids the distraction of the specific situation.
challenges of purposive reasoning
Challenges ofPurposive Reasoning
  • Difficult to ascertain and achieve consensus about fundamental purpose (especially once a particular action is being contemplated).
  • Difficult to determine which entity’s / context’s purpose is the relevant one.
  • Relating an action to purpose can be highly subject to interpretation.
checks and balances21
Checks and Balances
  • Purposive Reasoning
    • Keeps us on track towards worthwhile ends
  • Principled Reasoning
    • Provides aspirational motivation
    • Guards against inappropriate means
  • Consequential Reasoning
    • Keeps us in touch with reality, and the fact that our actions will have consequences.
traditional reasoning
Traditional Reasoning
  • Looking to past practice, precedent, history for guidance as to what is ethical
    • Case law based on precedent
importance drawbacks of traditional reasoning
Importance / Drawbacksof Traditional Reasoning
  • Provides stability, continuity for society, and thereby builds community.

BUT

  • Is a force against change
  • May reinforce outdated concepts, power relationships, practices
charismatic reasoning
Charismatic Reasoning
  • Deferring to a charismatic authority figure (e.g. the Pope) or text (e.g. the Koran)
importance drawbacks of charismatic reasoning
Importance / Drawbacksof Charismatic Reasoning
  • Reinforces sense of community, builds commitment to a cause

BUT

  • Deals in absolutes, doesn’t allow for debate
  • Is subject to abuse
consensual reasoning
Consensual Reasoning
  • Ethical actions are those to which all affected parties agree, based upon full information and free debate.
    • Basis for democracy
    • Even “good” decisions should not be forced on people
importance drawbacks of consensual reasoning
Importance / Drawbacksof Consensual Reasoning
  • Is situation specific, not abstract
  • Can lead to better decisions through multiple inputs, checks and balances

BUT

  • Often difficult to achieve consensus
  • Is subject to politicization
subjective reasoning
Subjective Reasoning
  • Acting on personal conscience, based on personal integrity and commitments.
    • Ethics from within – no one can impose ethics
importance drawbacks of subjective reasoning
Importance / Drawbacksof Subjective Reasoning
  • Emphasizes our inescapable responsibility for our actions.
  • Can be extremely motivating.

BUT

  • Difficult to communicate to others
  • No basis for group / organization action
subjective reasoning30
Subjective Reasoning

“This above all:

To thine own self be true,

And then it must follow, as the night the day

Thou canst not be false to any man.”

William Shakespeare,

Hamlet: Act I, Scene III

forms of moral reasoning
Forms of Moral Reasoning
  • Approaches for considering the ethical merit of an action
    • Principles
    • Consequential
    • Purposive
    • Traditional, Consensual
    • Charismatic, Subjective
  • These concepts are key to debating ethically challenging issues.