Professionals carry a lot of moral responsibilities to those in the population in general, and to society. Professionals can act on informed decisions that the public cannot, because the public lacks the knowledge that the professional has. There are several ethical principles that dictate how a professional should act in a business setting. These ethical principles have many similarities but are ultimately very distinct.
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Teleology is a Greek word meaning “end” or “purpose”. Teleology refers to moral philosophies that results in moral decisions based on the final outcome. A person looks at the choices presented to them and weighs all the outcomes and then chooses the consequence that best suits there desires. There are two major teleological philosophies, egoism, and utilitarianism.
An egoist is a person who is only concerned for him/her self. They do everything that they can to further their own needs. This doesn’t mean they are evil and greedy. An egoists goals can include getting a better job, a better house, or that stock portfolio they always wanted. In regards to ethical decisions, the egoist will choose the path that leads to their own goals with little to no regard to the other stakeholders. For the most part an egoist only thinks short term, there are some egoists that can think long term. These egoists are called enlightened egoists.
Another version of the egoist, the enlightened egoist, is able to look further along in time, they are also able to think about other peoples interests when making ethical decisions. An enlightened egoist will still keep there own interests ahead of others. An example of an enlightened egoist would be some one that helps a turtle cross the street only because that person would feel bad if the turtle were to get killed by a car, and also it would help the turtle. In regards to business ethics, the egoist would be someone that tells management of someone else wrong doing against the company but only if it would benefit there position in some way (Ferrell, Freidrich, & Ferrell, 2010).
The egoist isn’t the only one that is concerned with consequences. A utilitarianist concerns themselves with many consequences but unlike egoists they don’t do things just for themselves. The egoist and utilitarianist are very much plan oriented. They weigh all the outcomes and consequences, and what will happen to the stakeholders. The difference however is that the utilitarian will try to find the best choice to benefit everyone, while the egoist will of course try to get as much benefit as possible for himself. Utilitarians don’t just think about the benefits to humans either. Utilitarians will choose whats best for everything, including plants, animals, and the environment. Don’t confuse them for tree hugging hippies though. If a solution does not benefit all stakeholders a utilitarian will not choose it.
Deontology is completely different from teleology. Really the only thing that they have in common is that deontology is also a Greek word. Deontology is from the Greek word for ethics, and refers to a focus not on the self like Teleology but on others, and others intentions. Deontology teaches that there some things that just should not be done even if it could increase utility. Someone that follows deontology would try to convince there boss to give an employee another chance to improve their performance even though it would probably help overall productivity just to fire the person.
The basic guiding ethical principle of deontology is that if you are comfortable having everyone see your actions and your rationale for committing this action is suitable to become a universal guiding principle then you are ethically sound in committing that action (Ferrell, Freidrich, & Ferrell, 2010). Another example of this would be the taking of office supplies for use at home. If this were a universal ethical standard then companies would be going out of business because they would be spending ridiculous amounts of money on office supplies. Deontology can also be broken down into two different schools of thought, rule deontology, and act deontology.
Rule deontology focuses on a conformity to general moral principals. Basic deontological philosophies use reason and logic to create their rules of behavior. Whistle-blowers are the best example of rule based deontologists, if the whistle-blower is bringing up a complaint that affects the general health and well being of it’s employees and customers even if they would suffer the loss of their job or worse.
On the other end of the deontological spectrum is the Act deontologists. The act deontologist will still use rules and logic but not the currently established ones that the rule deontologists have created. Those rules are only guidelines to be used to make an ethical well thought out decision. Act deontologist also treat every action differently and as a seperate incident to be determined on its own.
There is also some debate on the obligations of deontologists to the law. Some argue that one of the deontological duties is the duty to obey the law. Otheres argue that any duty to obey the law depends on whether the possesses practical authority (Deontological Ethics, 2003).
The relativist perspective is more of a study of ethical norms and behaviors across the numerous and uncountable cultures of this world. It kind of follows the ideals of deontology in that it studies the rules of ethics that each culture creates. Relativists pride themselves on being fair and impartial to each cultures ethical norms. Relativists know that ethical decisions are based on cultural norms and therefore there can be no absolute ethical rules. For the most part relativists will adhere to moral and ethical standards of the culture that the relativist is currently in, but will adjust these morals and ethical rules as they move from culture to culture.
To put this in perspective the relativist perspective can almost be used as the job description for an anthropologist. A good example would be polygamy, the practice of which is very acceptable in some societies but frowned upon in most of America (Moral Relativism, 2004).
Virtue ethics is all about being an ethical person. Virtue ethicists will tell you that they do not follow a set of rules. Their actions are dictated by virtues and these virtues are inherent to your person. Virtue ethicists are also not concerned about the consequences of their actions like the Teleologists, nor do they have to think things through like a utilitarian. A virtue ethicist does whats right because they are a good person. Virtue ethics are not a habit like smoking, it is a persons very nature. These virtues (the rules that drive a virtue ethicist) will often come into conflict with a persons emotions. The truly virtuous however, are capable of putting aside their emotions and act without pause.
Justice is a system that is used to evaluate the fairness of different situations. Justice is based on rules, just like the deontologists, but in contrast these rules are written and are capable of forcing people to follow them. There are three types of justice that can be used. There is distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice.
Distributive justice relates to the guidance of the allocation of benefits and burdens of economic activity. In other words this is what decides who the laws should apply to. Procedural justice relates to the procedures used to produce the outcome, and interactional justice is used to evaluate communication processes.
Professionals have an uncountable number of moral and ethical decisions that they must decide on, and they need guidelines to help them make the best ethical and moral decisions. These guidelines can come from a great many sources, and it is ultimately the professionals decision on what to follow. Society in general follows these guidelines, and indeed without these guidelines society could very well fall apart into chaos.
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