The Language Of Ethics And Preventing Ethical Problems Philosophy Essay

What is ethics, and what does it mean to “put business and et

It is important to first establish that one cannot analyse beliefs and knowledge together, especially in relation to culture, thus they must be handled differently because they are both separate entities, in how they influence an individual’s culture.

Culture is the behaviour, and beliefs characteristic of an individual, particular, social ethnic group age group. [1]

Culture is the society and values upon which one is raised. It is built upon customs, practices, beliefs and ideas that are instilled in an individual by influential parties such as parents from childhood. These are all derived from imagination, knowledge and cultural values which are developed over time depending on customs and beliefs. These then influence an individual’s customs. Also, culture is divided into two, individual culture which is the way one

” It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.”

-Mohammed Ali [2]

This is basically to say that once something is repeated to an individual over time especially by someone in authority over them, they begin to believe and practice the said affirmation.

Belief is something that is perceived to be true by an individual but is not common to all individuals. According to Michael Woolman, belief is a tendency to accept principles one has always accepted regardless of evidence to the contrary. [3] Belief can be deemed fallacious because it is relative especially by people who do not share the same beliefs.

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Belief is also confidence in the truth of what we believe in and it is justified by its working. [4] Belief is also associated with action, ergo, one must practice what they believe in.

If I try to doubt all my beliefs, one day I will find that there is at least one whose truth I cannot doubt”

– Rene Descartes [5]

Descartes basically means that you cannot doubt your beliefs for there is a reason you believed in the first place. Over time, beliefs evolve from being just mere beliefs and become part of an individual’s belief system which is what people believe in, inspired by their culture.

Therefore, we cannot have beliefs which are independent of our culture.

Culture does not exist in a social vacuum but it inhabits a complex world where the attitudes and beliefs of those around an individual have a massive impact on every aspect of their lives. This means that culture, be it societal or individual is influenced by other beliefs from other cultures which end up an individual, depending on what the already present belief is and how closely related it is to the other culture. Culture determines behaviour, customs, values, habits and tradition and it meditates on every aspect of our lives and experiences. [6]

There is a thin line between knowledge and belief in the sense that belief never leads to knowledge, but knowledge leads to belief. It is not possible for one to believe in something they do not know, however, it is possible to know something they do not believe in. For instance, in the late 1800’s, the Kikuyu community of Kenya believed in naming people according to what they were good at, akin to the characteristics they exhibited. This is paradigm of a culture believing in something they know. On the other hand, one may possess full knowledge of what a religion other than their own stands for but may not believe in the tenets (the example of Islam)…….. According to Bastian Sue, Bammi Vivek , Howard Craig, Kitching Julian, Oberg Dennis, Wilkinson David and Salomon Manjula. knowledge is, a sub-category of belief and it is a claim that one accepts regardless of the degree of confidence, emotional intensity and sense of significance one may have. p

This is to say that for one to know they must believe. This only applies to the statement “Knowledge leads to belief” as it may differ in regard to other statements or claims.

This is justified because knowledge is information that is factual and based on the truth.

Knowledge is the acquaintance of facts, truths and principles as a form of study or investigation also as to have a clear perception as of fact or truth. [7] Also, according to Plato, knowledge is justified as true belief.

The greater our knowledge increases, the more our ignorance unfolds.

– John F Kennedy 3

This quote by J F Kennedy implies that as we learn more, our lack of knowledge expresses how ignorant we are. To some extent, knowledge and belief are somewhat alike in the sense that most of the time they are both based on perception and on what one is told rather that what one knows for a fact. After research, I realised that Knowledge does not have a clear definition of what it is but rather related words like teaching are used to express it. According to geek philosopher Aristotle “The one exclusive sign of knowledge is the power of teaching”.

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Among the Ways of Knowing (Wok’s), Knowledge by Authority and Perception are the most applicable when looking at knowledge in relation to culture. Knowledge by authority is when an individual knows something from someone older, knowledgeable and in authority over them so much so to influence them. For instance, parents and teachers. Authoritative knowledge is usually led by wisdom because such knowledge is thought to have been tested over time. However, it is important not to pass over the fact that authorities may also be wrong.

Perception is the act or faculty of apprehending by means ofthe senses or of the mind;  cognition, understanding or the immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities: insight; intuition; discernment. [8] Knowledge by perception follows the empiricism view that all knowledge is derived from what is observed. This is one Way of Knowing under which belief is and this is because with perception, one makes an observation and sometimes, it may influence what the individual believes in.

Belief is the confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. [9] This implies that more often than not, what is believed cannot be proved. It may also not be the truth it could however be deep trust about something and they tend to buried deep within the subconscious with the result that they trigger automatic reactions and behaviours. We seldom question beliefs because we hold them to be truths which have been repeated over time such that they automatically become truths. [10] This then means that people internalise beliefs from the people around us when we are most vulnerable and this is when we are children. This way of thinking can be fallacious in that it is an error in reasoning. In this case, the question of whether or not we can have beliefs or knowledge that are independent of culture.

“It is the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief”

-Muhammad Ali [11]

According to Famous boxer Muhammad Ali, when something is repeated and stressed to an individual then it becomes part of their belief s. The stressing and repetition of the belief not done by the believer but by another party who influences the believer to believe that what has been said is truth, thus making the belief part the believer’s conscience. The fact that sometimes, beliefs cannot be proved doesn’t make them right, neither does it make them wrong because as much as there is no proof n its truth, there is no proof that it is false. For instance the statement “I believe today is Wednesday” is only true because it has been repeated to us over and over again to the extent that it is now true although it is not a statement that has be proved right or wrong theoretically and scientifically.

Therefore, it is impossible to have beliefs which are independent of our culture because culture and belief work hand in hand to make an individual’s values, traditions, values and habits therefore they cannot be separated and one cannot have beliefs which are independent of our culture. It is also important to note that the culture in question here is an individual’s culture and not another’s culture, because one cannot believe in a culture that they do not practice because belief is backed by action.

In conclusion, it is possible to have knowledge which is independent of our culture but it is not possible to have beliefs which are independent of our culture.


hics together”? What would it mean for a company to do this well? Ethics is a foundation of principles of moral conduct that is based on the philosophies of those involved in a life situation. Therefore, the melding of business and ethics is following these moral guidelines in a business life situation. This can be a slippery slope, as there needs to be an agreement between the moral behavior and the mission of the business, which at times seem to be at odds. It is important to recognize that ethics has a mission it is attempting to accomplish. That mission is not to create the perfect business world but to limit the harm on all stakeholders in their business life situations. “What the discipline of business ethics can and must do is to provide an approach for improving the lives of the stakeholders who, with business, live in an imperfect, and sometimes harmful, world.” (D. Robin, 2010). So the answer to doing business ethics well requires understanding the possibilities of the harms that could occur for the stakeholders. In order to do that it is vital to understand the stakeholders and their needs through a stakeholder analysis. This is a helpful way for managers to identify the relevant purposes and consequences in a given case (Freeman, Martin, Werhane & Wicks, 2010). In determining what ethical or moral code of conduct will be employed to eliminate or minimize a harm it is a waste of time to establish a code that does not resolve an issue that for any of the stakeholders. If this arbitrary moral code that has no positive or negative effect on any stakeholders is employed it is meaningless. However, if an issue is identified that applies to one or more stakeholders a meaningful moral code can be establish that is useful to all. So an organization that starts first by understanding their stakeholders through a stakeholder analysis and what their needs are will be able to employ meaningful and useful ethics that will allow them limit the harm and do business ethics well.

What are the three traditions of ethics, and how do they provide guidance to help inform your managerial decision-making?

The three traditions of ethics according to Business Ethics: A Managerial Approach (Freeman, Martin, Werhane & Wicks, 2010) are; Actions or means people use to achieve their goals; Agent or persons who are acting in the situation; and Ends or goals that are outcomes of actions. At first glance some comparisons between the traditions would seem to suggest that they are opposites. However, they are really a view of situations from different angles or approaches. They each provide a value in their own right. An actions based approach focuses on the standards that we are using in the decision making process. Is the decision maker following the rules of decency in coming to his moral decision? In an actions based approach it is believed that the means is paramount in the ethical decision that is being made. An actions based approach may be the most useful when stakeholders are going to see the entire process and expect things to be done in a certain way. An Agents based approach does not deal with how it’s done nor does it deal with what the the outcome is. Instead it centers on what the decision says about the person making the decision. Does this decision prop up his or her character or does it undermine it? This approach would likely be used when the decision creates a lasting impression that will cause a long term affect of the decision maker or the organization. Finally, an Ends based approach does not look back. It does not concern itself with how it was done or what the decision says about the individual or organization. Instead it looks to the end and assesses the result. Did it yield the positive result that was desired? Focusing on the Ends would be desired when there is little to no harm in how things are done or what the process means but instead what the bottom line becomes. Each of these traditions has its place and its value in providing the guidance to conclude what ethical decision is needed.

Before this class discussion in module 1, what was your sense of why organizational ethics like Enron, Arthur Anderson, and Worldcom, happen?

I don’t like to cast full judgment on people or an organization without completely understanding the entire story. However, I did have a very dim view based on the details of which I was aware. My perspective was that a very large company was taking advantage of the federal government. To mount more trouble on top of it, in the case of Enron, Arthur Anderson who should have held them to a higher standard as an auditor allowed the corruption to continue. The irony of all of this is of course the largest more corrupt offender of all, the federal government, was holding both of these organizations to a standard that they themselves cannot follow in terms of accountability, which is evidenced based on their balance sheet. I certainly did not have an understanding that the 3 traditions of ethics could be applied in this situation. It would seem at some very cloudy level they were applying the Ends tradition. I say this is cloudy in that it brought with it the baggage of corruption to get to the ends that should have almost obscured the view of it. I would suggest that it would have been more prudent for them to employ the Action, Agent or a combination of these traditions of ethics as it would have likely caused a different outcome. The long term result of this is much more than the harm these organizations caused themselves and their stakeholders. The constraints that often come from harmful situations such as saddling all companies with Sarbanes-Oxley will unnecessarily felt by the business community for years to come.

Which factors seem to be most important in diagnosing why bad things happen? What role does the individual, and individual conscience, play in making sure good things happen organizations?

To determine within an organization what is the cause of bad ethical decisions it is important to understand the morality and conscience of individuals within the organization and what is driving the decisions that they are making. This includes not only the leadership of an organization but all members from the top down. It can be valuable to look at not only the moral development of the individual but what forces that affect decision making are in play (Freeman, Martin, Werhane & Wicks, 2010). First moral development, which is postulated by Kohlberg to be progressive, should be looked at and considered. While not all theorists agree with this approach it can be used as a good model for understanding causation of ethical problems. What is the tendency of individuals in terms of moral development? Is there a tendency to make ethical decisions based on the earlier stages of fear or are they at a point of maturity in this process? Knowing where individuals are in this spectrum can help us understand if it is part of the problem (Forsyth, Donelson R, 1992). Also, if the leadership of the organization is at the early point of the moral spectrum they are going to feed this type of decision making down through the rest of the organization. Understanding not only the individual’s moral development but also the leadership’s moral development all the way through the organization will help in the diagnosis of the problems.

Second, we need to look at the forces in play for decision making. In considering each of the forces discussed in the text it can be assumed that it can be applied at the individual level if we want to understand the problems and want to see good decisions within the organization. Attempting to apply these forces at an organizational level becomes abstract and makes it very difficult to see or directly affect individuals. For example, to see how authority is properly communicated in an organization it is necessary to look at specific examples of this. That is, how a particular individual in authority communicates to other individuals in the organization is important in the making of good ethical decisions. Likewise, how an individual responds to that authority will play into it as well. This can be done with each of the other forces, Distance from Responsibility, Tunnel Vision, Rationalization, External Pressure and Communication Breakdowns. Applying individual notions to each of these will help in both the diagnosis and resolving to better decision making. Therefore the consideration of the individual conscience both in the diagnosis and the resolution of good decisions is a key element.

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Read the case, “Marge Norman and Miniscribe Corporation”, pages 58 – 67 of your textbook. Provide a summary of this case including the ethical dilemmas and how they were handled in this case. Draw on what you learned in chapters 1 & 2 as part of your response.

The case of Marge Norman and Miniscribe Corporation is a good example of some of the central forces that affect the decision making process, chief of which is the authority force (Freeman, Martin, Werhane & Wicks, 2010). In addition, the findings and results suggest the rationalization played a major role in the decisions that were made within the company that caused the downfall of the corporation. Chronologically, the case begins with a company in a difficult position financially. Initially it appeared as if things were moving in a good direction with new leadership, Q. T. Wiles, being very decisive and with a solid influx of investors. One of the dilemmas that initially showed it head was in the area of communication breakdown, as all information was required to be communicated from the very top. In doing this it can be completely controlled as to what is being communicated. This created a fertile ground to allow the story to become whatever the leader wanted it to be. This also ties into the central force of authority, which played a major role. With Q.T. Wiles being a strong personality with his 13 disciplines it would appear that the company was being lead in the right direction with strong accountability. From the outside this might give the appearance of a solid ethical foundation ensuring those doing the work are being held accountable. As the case continues and we see in the end that cooking of the books had occurred, this suggests that the authority force did indeed play a major role. In addition, the case states that there were many employees involved in the cover up. To have a large number involved it would require an authority figure guiding them and providing rationalizations in the process. There was also the external pressure force placed on the leadership by the accountability structure to come up with the correct numbers, which has the possibility of causing bad decision making. For the scandal to be this successful it had to cause dilemmas for all areas of the company. The accountants had to decide if the numbers forced to them should be used. The sales department always watches the numbers closely and would have had to wonder about the inflated numbers. Even the shipping department, who day to day knew what would be going into the boxes, must have faced a moral dilemma. As lies or deceptions occur within a company there is a need for consistency in the store and an escalation tends to occur (Kidwell & Martin, 2005). As deceptive dilemmas began to mount with each bad decision more bad decisions were made until it was impossible to conceal as indicated by MiniScribe’s 13 successful quarters.

Looking back had any of the employees overcome the central forces and employed even one of the rationalization tests earlier in the process, the scandal could have been less severe. Far too late, Marge Norman applied the publicity test in a small way by communicating her findings to her supervisor. Had this been done earlier the story would have been different. Had the leadership put themselves in the place of the stockholders, using the reversibility test, it would have brought to the surface the lack of ethics in the decisions. And certainly, using the generalizability test and comparing the situation even to one’s personal finances it would be clear that this situation would eventually be found out.

The mounting power of the authority force and rationalization along with a failure to apply any of the rationalization tests to the situation proved to be the down fall of MiniScribe. Sadly, this affected not only the company itself but many others in the process.


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