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Business Ethics

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Business Ethics ­MGT610
VU
LESSON 09
UNIVERSALIZABILITY & REVERSIBILITY
The categorical imperative incorporates two criteria for determining moral right and wrong:
universalizability and reversibility. Universalizability means the person's reasons for acting
must be reasons that everyone could act on at least in principle. Reversibility means the
person's reasons for acting must be reasons that he or she would be willing to have all others
use, even as a basis of how they treat him or her. That is, one's reasons for acting must be
reasons that everyone could act upon in principle, and the person's reasons must be such that he
would be willing to have all others use them as well. Unlike utilitarianism, which focuses on
consequences, Kantian theory focuses on interior motivations.
The second formulation Kant gives of the categorical imperative is this: "Act in such a way that
you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never
simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." Or never treat people only as means,
but always also as ends. What Kant means by "treating humanity as an end" is that everyone
should treat each human being as a being whose existence as a free rational person should be
promoted. For Kant, this means two things: (a) respect each person's freedom by treating
people only as they have freely consented to be treated beforehand, and (b) develop each
person's capacity to freely choose for him or herself the aims he or she will pursue. Kant's
second version of the categorical imperative can be expressed in the following principle:
"An action is morally right for a person if, and only if, in performing the action, the
person does not use others merely as a means for advancing his or her own interests,
but also both respects and develops their capacity to choose freely for themselves."
This version of the categorical imperative implies that human beings have an equal dignity that
sets them apart from things such as tools or machines and that is incompatible with their being
manipulated, deceived, or otherwise unwillingly exploited to satisfy the self-interests of
another.
However, even if the categorical imperative explains why people have moral rights, it cannot
by itself tell us what particular moral rights humans have. And when rights come into conflict,
it cannot tell us which right should take precedence. Still, there seem to be three basic rights
that can be defended on Kantian grounds:
1. Humans have a clear interest in being provided with the work, food, clothing,
housing, and medical care they need to live.
2. Humans have a clear interest in being free from injury and in being free to live and
think as they choose.
3. Humans have a clear interest in preserving the institution of contracts.
Despite the attractiveness of Kant's theory, critics have argued that, like utilitarianism, it has its
limitations and inadequacies. A first problem that critics have traditionally pointed out is that
Kant's theory is not precise enough to always be useful. Second, some critics claim that
although we might be able to agree on the kinds of interests that have the status of moral rights,
there is substantial disagreement concerning what the limits of each of these rights are and
concerning how each of these rights should be balanced against other conflicting rights. A third
group of criticisms that have been made of Kant's theory is that there are counterexamples that
show the theory sometimes goes wrong. Most counterexamples to Kant's theory focus on the
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Business Ethics ­MGT610
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criteria of universalizability and reversibility.
A very different view of rights is based on the work of libertarian philosophers such as Robert
Nozick. They claim that freedom from constraint is necessarily good, and that all constraints
imposed on one by others are necessary evils, except when they prevent even greater human
constraints. The only basic right we all possess is the negative right to be free from the coercion
of other human beings.
Libertarians may pass too quickly over the fact that the freedom of one person necessarily
imposes constraints on other persons, if only that others must be constrained from interfering
with that person. If I have the right to unionize, for example, I constrain the rights of my
employer to treat me as he sees fit. Though libertarians tend to use Kant to support their views,
there is no consensus on whether or not this is actually possible. There is also no good reason to
assume that only negative rights exist.
Justice and Fairness
The dispute over "brown lung" disease caused by cotton dust illustrates how references to
justice and fairness permeate such concerns. Justice and fairness are essentially comparative.
They are concerned with the comparative treatment given to the members of a group when
benefits and burdens are distributed, when rules and laws are administered, when members of a
group cooperate or compete with each other, and when people are punished for the wrongs they
have done or compensated for the wrongs they have suffered. Justice generally refers to
matters that are more serious than fairness, though some philosophers maintain that fairness is
more fundamental. In general, we think that considerations of justice are more important than
utilitarian concerns: greater benefits for some do not justify injustices to others. However,
standards of justice not generally override individual moral rights. This is probably because
justice is, to some extent, based on individual moral rights.
There are three categories of issues involving justice:
1. Distributive justice is concerned with the fair distribution of society's benefits and
burdens.
2. Retributive justice refers to the just imposition of penalties and punishments
3. Compensatory justice is concerned with compensating people for what they lose
when harmed by others.
Questions of distributive justice arise when there is a scarcity of benefits or a plethora of
burdens; not enough food or health care, for example, or too much unpleasant work. When
resources are scarce, we must develop principles to allocate them fairly. The fundamental
principle involved is that equals should be treated equally (and unequals treated unequally).
However, it is not clear in just what respects people must be equal. The fundamental principle
of distributive justice may be expressed as follows:
"Individuals who are similar in all respects relevant to the kind of treatment in
question should be given similar benefits and burdens, even if they are dissimilar in
other irrelevant respects; and individuals who are dissimilar in a relevant respect
ought to be treated dissimilarly, in proportion to their dissimilarity."
Egalitarians hold that there are no relevant differences among people that can justify unequal
treatment. According to the egalitarian, all benefits and burdens should be distributed according
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Business Ethics ­MGT610
VU
to the following formula:
"Every person should be given exactly equal shares of a society's or a group's
benefits and burdens."
Though equality is an attractive social ideal for many, egalitarianism has been strongly
criticized. Some critics claim that need, ability, and effort are all relevant differences among
people, and that it would be unjust to ignore these differences.
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Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION:Business Issues
  2. INTRODUCTION (CONTD.)
  3. THEORY OF ETHICAL RELATIVISM
  4. MORAL DEVELOPMENTS AND MORAL REASONING
  5. MORAL REASONING:Arguments For and Against Business Ethics
  6. MORAL RESPONSIBILITY AND BLAME
  7. UTILITARIANISM:Utilitarianism: Weighing Social Costs and Benefits
  8. UTILITARIANISM (CONTD.):rule utilitarianism, Rights and Duties
  9. UNIVERSALIZABILITY & REVERSIBILITY:Justice and Fairness
  10. EGALITARIANS’ VIEW
  11. JOHN RAWLS' THEORY OF JUSTICE:The Ethics of Care
  12. THE ETHICS OF CARE:Integrating Utility, Rights, Justice, and Caring
  13. THE ETHICS OF CARE (CONTD.):Morality in International Contexts
  14. MORALITY IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXTS:Free Markets and Rights: John Locke
  15. FREE MARKET & PLANNED ECONOMY:FREE TRADE THEORIES
  16. LAW OF NATURE:Theory of Absolute Advantage, Comparative Advantage
  17. FREE MARKETS AND UTILITY: ADAM SMITH:Free Trade and Utility: David Ricardo
  18. RICARDO & GLOBALIZATION:Ricardo’s Assumptions, Conclusion
  19. FREE MARKET ECONOMY:Mixed Economy, Bottom Line for Business
  20. COMPETITION AND THE MARKET:Perfect Competition
  21. PERFECT COMPETITION
  22. MONOPOLY COMPETITION:Oligopolistic Competition
  23. OLIGOPOLISTIC COMPETITION:Crowded and Mature Market
  24. OLIGOPOLIES AND PUBLIC POLICY:Ethic & Environment, Ozone depletion
  25. WORLDWATCH FIGURES:Population Year, Agriculture, Food and Land Use
  26. FORESTS AND BIODIVERSITY:The Ethics of Pollution Control
  27. THE ETHICS OF POLLUTION CONTROL:Toxic Chemicals in Teflon
  28. THE ETHICS OF POLLUTION CONTROL
  29. THE ETHICS OF POLLUTION CONTROL:Recommendations to Managers
  30. COST AND BENEFITS:Basis of social audit, Objectives of social audit
  31. COST AND BENEFITS:The Ethics of Conserving Depletable Resources
  32. COST AND BENEFITS:The Club of Rome
  33. THE ETHICS OF CONSUMER PRODUCTION AND MARKETING:DSA Comments
  34. THE ETHICS OF CONSUMER PRODUCTION AND MARKETING:Should Consumers Bear More Responsibility?
  35. THE CONTRACT VIEW OF BUSINESS' DUTIES TO CONSUMERS
  36. THE CONTRACT VIEW OF BUSINESS' DUTIES TO CONSUMERS:The Due Care Theory
  37. THE SOCIAL COSTS VIEW OF THE MANUFACTURER’S DUTIES
  38. ADVERTISING ETHICS:The Benefits of Advertising, The harm done by advertising
  39. ADVERTISING ETHICS:Basic Principles, Evidence, Remedies, Puffery
  40. ADVERTISING IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:Psychological tricks
  41. ADVERTISING IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:Criticism of Galbraith's Work
  42. ADVERTISING IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:Medal of Freedom
  43. ADVERTISING IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:GENERAL RULES, Substantiation
  44. ADVERTISING IN TODAY’S SOCIETY:Consumer Privacy, Accuracy
  45. THE ETHICS OF JOB DISCRIMINATION:Job Discrimination: Its Nature