3. Different Perspectives on the Role of Ethics in Business and Society (Module 5)
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This is a graded discussion forum set up for discussing both the role of ethics in society and also some of the different approaches to ethics that have been proposed by moral philosophers and moral psychologists.
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Many people today would view ethics as a science while others simply believe it is a way of living that they would call, “having morals”. Ethics have been preached since the dawn of time and has dramatically changed over the course of history from people’s personal lives and into businesses as well. If we think about it, ethics is nothing more than a means of social control and this varies from country to country within our everchanging world. As mentioned in our readings, the “what ought to be” and “what is desirable” is basically a standard or goal that we as people or even as society should adopt. As mentioned, this can dramatically vary depending on where in the world we are. If you view ethics as a science then there must be data that can be backed up statistically. There must be empirical observations, deductive reasoning that can be backed up by further observation, experiments, testing, etc. (Voss, P. 2000). Those that believe that ethics is about, “having morals” can be viewed in many ways but many of us would think alike. The story we read in the article from this weeks studies where the brother and sister went on a trip together in the woods and decided to make love to one another but in the end, they felt no guilt, would this be considered morally or ethically insane? I certainly have my opinions but what do you think? What would other cultures think or believe?
Jonathan Haidt’s theory on morals covers a vast majority of ethical and moral standards that we all hold dear today. He describes Care, Loyalty, Fairness, Purity and Authority as basic standards of his teachings. Care discusses the suffering of others and how we react to this suffering and having compassion for those who are suffering. Loyalty talks of being obligated to group memberships and basically having self-sacrifice and a negative approach towards betrayal. Fairness encompasses exactly what it states, being fair to others and also the unfair treatment of others as well as cheating. Purity covers the physical and spiritual conditions of things such as chastity virtue, controlling ones desires and being wholesome. Lastly, Authority means having some sort of social order or hierarchical relationships, obedience with a sense of fulfillment on role based duties and respect (Curry, O. 2019).
We certainly ALL view ethics and being moral in way different terms. I think being raised in the south, we were taught, or at least I was, that certain things are wrong such as sex before marriage, no smoking or drinking because it is a sin. Many of these ethical or moral things were religious based depending on how you were brought up. I remember as a child if a young girl became pregnant and she wasn’t married, in church views, it was an abomination much in the same way as gay people were viewed. Look at where we are today, no one thinks twice about it anymore. While I don’t like speaking in terms of racial prejudice, when I was growing up if you saw a white person with a black person or even someone of a different nationality, we were taught this was a horrible thing and that races shouldn’t mix. Why I never believed in this and still don’t, it was how certain people were raised and that was such a limiting belief system. As we can see, this topic alone could encompass an entire degree program in itself so we must learn the basics of ethics and morality and how to apply them to our personal and professional lives and do so without bias or judgement.
Voss, P. (2000, July 25). De-scription versus Pre-scription – And Other Ethical Conclusions. Retrieved from http://optimal.org/voss/prescriptive_ethics.html (Links to an external site.)
Curry, O. (2019, March 26). What’s Wrong with Moral Foundations Theory, and How to get Moral Psychology Right. Retrieved from https://behavioralscientist.org/whats-wrong-with-moral-foundations-theory-and-how-to-get-moral-psychology-right/
I have had some exposure to normative ethical approaches in undergrad, but do not recall ever hearing before about social intuitionist ethical approaches. I found a lot to chew on in the two Haidt articles.
The first Haidt article included a long discussion of the four “emotion families”, which Haidt defines as other-condemning, self-conscious, other-suffering, and other-praising. I read the section on the self-conscious emotion family with particular interest, especially Haidt’s discussion of how emotions of shame and embarrassment develop and present differently in Western versus Eastern cultures. Haidt’s theory is that shame and embarrassment are felt as distinctly different emotions in Western cultures, but that in many non-Western and especially Asian cultures, these are usually simultaneous and not distinguished from each other. Haidt posits that this results from different social perception and organization. In Western culture, which largely emphasizes equality and independence of individuals, guilt is a response to personal moral failure, whereas embarrassment corresponds to social failure that is not necessarily morally weighted. Asian cultures, meanwhile, place greater emphasis on hierarchy and on the interdependent nature of individuals within that hierarchy. This gives a moral weight to social interactions and blurs the distinction between shame and embarrassment. I have lived in South Korea previously, and for the past several years the business I work for has been developing a funding partnership with a Nepalese nonprofit. I have noticed how much care our Nepalese friends take to communicate respect in every communication, and I felt that Haidt’s article gave me more understanding of why this is so important in that cultural context.
Haidt’s assertion that our moral judgment most commonly operates from intuition, with moral reasoning acting as a means of explanation and persuasion of others rather than of decision-making, seems to reflect real-life human experience better than the purely normative approaches. I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite authors. C.S. Lewis was originally best known as a Christian apologist and his earlier works, such as Mere Christianity and Miracles, rest heavily on moral reasoning. However, Lewis himself grew increasingly aware of the point Haidt makes, that moral reasoning is often insufficient to change someone’s mind. His biographer Alister McGrath notes that despite his public fame as an apologist, Lewis’ arguments had failed to convince many of those closest to him, including his own brother. This concern over the limitations of formal moral argument, in part, is what gave rise to his most famous works, the Chronicles of Narnia: “The Narnian novels,” McGrath says, “express in the form of story the same philosophical and theological arguments advanced in Miracles.” (1) Haidt notes that people’s moral intuition is partly innate, but partly develops and responds to their community and close relationships. He cites examples such as unconscious imitation, but storytelling is also an extremely powerful technique for persuading our intuitive, rather than our rational, minds.
(1) McGrath, A. E. (2013). S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (pp. 258–260). Tyndale House Publishers.
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