, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 231-245

Teaching Business Ethics: The Role of Ethics in Business and in Business Education

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Abstract

The paper begins with an examination of traditional attitudes towards business ethics. I suggest that these attitudes fail to recognize that a principal function of ethics is to facilitate cooperation. Further that despite the emphasis on competition in modern market economies, business like all other forms of social activity is possible only where people are prepared to respect rules in the absence of which cooperation is rendered difficult or impossible. Rules or what I call the ethics of doing, however, constitute just one dimension of ethics. A second has to do with what we see and how we see it; a third with who we or what I describe as the ethics of being. Of these three dimensions, the first and the third have been most carefully explored by philosophers and are most frequently the focus of attention when teaching business ethics is being discussed. I argue that this focus is unfortunate in as much as it is the second dimension which falls most naturally into the ambit of modern secular educational institutions. It is here that moral education is most obviously unavoidable, and most clearly justifiable in modern secular teaching environments. I conclude by describing the importance of this second dimension for the modern world of business.