by Larry Hauser
Business Ethics Concepts and Cases (6th Edition)
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Course
“Business ethics,” they say, “is an oxymoron,” a contradiction in terms; or they say, “It comes under the heading of public relations.” Are they right? This course investigates the question of what role ethics should play in the conduct of business, if any, and also the larger question of what this says about business and its practices and institutions. In other words, this course deals with the ethical issues regarding business practices, and related socio-political issues those practices and their supporting institutions raise.
The primary aims of the course are
The capstone of the course will be the preparation of an ethical impact statement evaluating the decisions that were taken, and recommending decisions to be taken, in a case of the student’s own choosing.
The course is divided into four parts.
Each module includes case studies for illustrative purposes, and additional cases for discussion at the end of each chapter. You will be tested at the end of each module on your grasp of the concepts and knowledge of factual matters covered in that module’s two chapters, and on your ability to apply such concepts and knowledge in evaluating an actual case.
Finally, be advised that this is a philosophy course, not a business course, and philosophy is largely a speculative and argumentative. While there are concepts to be grasped and facts to be mastered in connection with the various issues, there are no unarguably “right” answers the larger questions (the justifiability of affirmative action, the extent of corporate environmental responsibility, etc.) that this course addresses. Students are both encouraged and expected to develop and defend their own opinions on these issues – at the same time coming to better understand opposing views – by applying the concepts and the knowledge imparted in this course.
Larry Hauser has taught philosophy at Central Michigan University, Michigan State University, and AlmaCollege since receiving his Ph.D. from MichiganStateUniversity in the spring of 1993. His course offerings include both Introductory and Business Ethics. He teaches Introduction to Values and Medical Ethics, among other courses, at Alma.
The Instructor’s Philosophy
Of Philosophy & Pedagogy: Our backgrounds are different. Mine is in the world of academics, in the discipline of philosophy. Yours, perhaps, will be in the world of business. As our backgrounds differ, so, assuredly, do our opinions . . . whether about business in general, or about the more particular questions we will consider about the environment, workplace discrimination, worker rights, etc. “Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth,” says the poet William Blake; but no one’s image, I say, is the whole truth. “Iron sharpens iron,” the Bible says, “and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs xxvii:17). To develop and deepen one’s own views – I believe – requires confronting their flaws (which are best pointed out by those who object to them) and their limitations (which are best shown by comparison with competing views). I expect to learn from you as I teach.
Of Business & Ethics: Against the jibes about business ethics being “an oxymoron” I agree with the simple argument of our text: “since ethics should govern all voluntary human activity, and since business is a voluntary human activity, ethics should also govern business” (Velasquez: §1.3). To the extent that business institutions and practices discourage, or even preclude, ethical behavior – by putting profit above all, due to the inhuman agency of corporations, or for whatever reasons – these institutions and practices are themselves morally questionable, in my opinion.
Study Plan: Unit Organization
This course is divided into four modules of two units each. Each unit corresponds to a chapter of the textbook. Each unit includes an introduction, learning objectives, a glossary of key terms and concepts, assigned readings and other assignments, a unit summary, and a self-test. The self-tests provide both a study aid and a gauge of your readiness to attempt the module end examination. Complete the readings, assignments, and study materials, and master the self-test questions, for both units in the module. You should then be ready for – and take – the module end examination.
It will be helpful to you to become familiar with the format general format of the manual. Each unit in the manual includes the following:
The most advantageous course of study probably differs from student to student – try to find a plan of study that suits your individual needs and stick to it. Though what suits you best may differ, here is the plan of study I more or less envisaged in preparing these materials. For each unit:
I stress the importance of reading all of the required readings. The student manual is intended as a supplement to – not as a substitute for – the textbook. Finally, do not lag behind in completing the modules since, at the last, you will need time to complete the ethical impact statement term paper in addition to the time you need to devote to the study of the final module. So be forewarned; try, even, to get a little ahead of schedule before the final unit.
Grades and Grading Policy
Your grades will be based four module end closed book examinations (worth 50% of your final grade), an “Ethical Impact Assessment” term paper (25%) and participation (25%: online forums & classroom attendance). The module end examinations will consist of twenty multiple choice questions based on the questions you will have already encountered in the unit self-tests (worth 1 pt. each), and one (10 pt.) short essay “ethical impact assessment.” Grades for the module end examinations will be assigned on the basis of the following scale:
Half credit will be given for multiple choice answers which, though true (and nothing but) are not the whole truth, and consequently not the best answer among those offered. (For instance, if you answered A or B or C when the best answer was D, “All of the above,” your answer would receive half credit.) Note: the A+ grade applies to component grades (for exams and term paper) only: A is the highest grade that may be awarded for the course on the Alma system.
Advice to the Student
Do not be deceived or lulled into overconfidence by the seeming generosity of the scales and grading policies just described, or by the fact that the module end examination questions are closely based on the self-test questions. Experience tells me you will find the examinations challenging, as past generations of my students always have. You will probably need to spend the recommended 15-20 hours per week reading and studying the textbook and this manual to do well. Just spending a couple of hours a week memorizing the answers to the Self-Test items is not going to suffice and may even prove counterproductive (“a little learning,” as they say, being “a dangerous thing”).
On the other hand – if some of the material seems difficult and daunting– take heart. It’s not just you. Philosophy is difficult. Philosophy requires you to think and reading philosophy is the very opposite of light reading: it requires you to take time to ponder concepts and wrestle with issues as you read. For all its difficulty, this is a good text. Your efforts to understand will be rewarded if you make the effort. It does take effort.
REQUIRED: Velasquez, Manuel G. Business Ethics Concepts and Cases (6th edition). Prentice Hall, 2006.
RECOMMENDED: Hauser, Larry S. Student Manual. Online.
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES: Endnote 1 of each chapter of our textbook provides the web addresses of useful sites for online research on the topics covered in that chapter: you can access these sites by typing these URLs (web addresses) into your browser’s navigation window.
The textbook provides the informational content to be learned for the course and is the primary source for your study. The Student Manual introduces you to the course, tells you about evaluation and grading, and guides you, assignment by assignment, chapter by chapter, through the textbook and supplemental materials. As you begin your reading, you will be presented with a list of “Objectives” stating what you are to learn. Self-test questions help you check the progress of your learning after reading assignments for each particular objective. Careful reading and study of all assigned materials is required if you are to learn the facts and concepts explained in the objectives.
Module end examinations: Four examinations consisting of 20 multiple choice questions (worth 1 pt. each) and one short essay “Ethical Impact Assessment” assessing one of the Cases for Discussion in the textbook (worth 10 pts.). The short essay follows the same format as the term paper (see below), omitting the case description.
Term Paper: A six to eight page (1500-2000 word) “Ethical Impact Assessment” on any case from the text. Students may do their assessments on outside cases (in the news, perhaps, or known to them personally) with instructor approval. The nature and format for the ethical impact statement is specified below. The term paper is due at the end of the semester.
Term Paper Specifications
Sample Impact Statement: Joe Camel