This essay is to generally discuss how ethical theories provide guides in valuing human being’s behaviours to be ethically good or bad. We also have a look in different ethical theories to see why they are incompatible. The ethical theories include Utilitarianism, Kantian moral theory, virtue ethics and rights theory. Drawing on two of the theories, we will outline their positions and critically discuss the claim in a business situation. We will also outline and access at criticism level for these two theories.
Purpose of ethical theory
An ethical theory is to provide theory for people to value human beings through their behaviors, to access a person if he/she is ethical good or bad through his/her actions, like be honest, not to steal, not to kill, etc. Although there are basic moralities that every person follows in all places (Beauchamp & Bowie, 2004), in different background culture or different situations, people have different judgments about the actions. Ethical theory gives us a guide to choose the best option of actions in a certain situation which counts as most significant ethically.
Comparing ethical theories
Different ethical theories have different approaches to valuing human beings through their actions. (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2006, M1, p51) Each theory has different ideas about an action to be considered ethically good, therefore ethical theories are incompatible. For example, friend A asks me to tell the truth of friend B who wants me to keep secret, honest virtue would allow me to tell the truth; but utilitarianism would argue that I need to think about the foreseeable consequences of this action which would cause harm to friend B; rights theory would say I need to respect friend B’s negative right of privacy and not to tell the truth to others; and Kantian deontological moral theory would pick out the principle of the action and say we could not treat a person as means to an end, but to treat a person as an end, which means we should keep our promise.
Positions of two ethical theories
Here we discuss the following two ethical theories – Virtue ethics and Rights theory.
Virtue ethics identifies an action as morally good if it best expresses virtue and least expresses vice. Virtue ethics argue that if a person is ideally ethically good, he/she will show or perform a series of virtues of character and practical wisdom, i.e. justice, honesty, compassion, courage, generosity, and knowing how to assess the options for action in order to be ethically well. “Virtues of character can be developed through practice (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2006, M1, p37)” and it is a lifetime learning process. Instead of emphasising on duty or rules for people to follow, virtue ethics focus on helping people foster good character traits, therefore to make right decisions when situations occur.
Rights theory considers an action is morally good if it best respect the rights of persons. Persons’ particular rights bring on obligations or duties on others to fulfil. A child’s right to accept education require the parents and community to provide education for him/her. That is to say, rights always follow by duties. The types of rights have two - positive rights and negative rights. Positive rights impose others to do something for you. Negative rights impose others not to do something for you.
Critically discuss a business claim
Let’s have a look at the following business claim:
‘If management ensures that a business acts within the law, and that some of its actions benefit society as well as itself, the business’s actions can be considered ethically good.’
The rights theory would disagree with this statement. The law is a set of legal obligation and legislation impose on business to comply with, or we can say laws are series of legal rights that are set out by law for business to follow. Law is enforceable. For...
References: Beauchamp, T. L., & Bowie, N. E. (2004). Ethical theory and business (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Immigration New Zealand, (2005). Business regulation. Retrieved on 04 Apr. 2006 from http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/invest/startingabusiness/whatopportunitiesarethere/nzbusinessscene/businesslegislation/businessregulations.htm
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, (2006). Learning guide, Module 1, In 71203 Business ethics (7th ed.). Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
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