Moral Issues in Business Chapter 2

Flashcard maker : Lily Taylor
act utilitarianism
The most basic type of utilitarianism, which states that we must ask ourselves what the consequences will be for all those who may be affected by a particular act in a particular situation. If its consequences bring more total good than those of any alternative course of action, then this action is the right one and the one we should perform.
business egoism
The view that it is morally acceptable (or even morally required) for individuals to pursue their economic interests when engaged in business. This view is defended on utilitarian grounds.
categorical imperative
Kant’s moral concept that an action is morally right if and only if we can will that the maxim (or principle) represented by our action be a universal law. (For example, a person making a promise with no intention of keeping it cannot universalize the maxim governing his action, because if everyone followed this principle, promising would make no sense.) Kant believed this concept to be binding on all rational creatures, regardless of their goals or desires and regardless of the consequences. It takes the form of “Do this” or “Don’t do that”—no ifs, ands, or buts.
consequentialist theories
Theories that argue that the moral rightness of an action is determined solely by its results. If its consequences are good, then the act is right; if they are bad, the act is wrong.
egoism
The view that equates morality with self-interest; an egoist contends that an act is morally right if and only if it best promotes an agent’s interests.
eminent domain
The government’s right to appropriate private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner. (Thus, the government may legally purchase your house from you to widen a highway—even if you don’t want to sell the house or if you want more money than the government is willing to pay.)
good will
According to Kant, the only thing that is good in itself. By “will,” Kant meant the uniquely human capacity to act from principle. This does not mean that intelligence, courage, self-control, health, happiness, and other things are not good and desirable, but that their goodness depends on the motivation that makes use of them (e.g., intelligence is not good when used by an evil person).
hedonism
The view that pleasure (or happiness) is the only thing that is good in itself, is the ultimate good, and is the one thing in life worth pursuing for its own sake.
human rights
The moral rights that are not the result of particular roles, special relationships, or specific circumstances. They have four important characteristics — they are (1) universal; (2) equal; (3) not transferable or able to be relinquished; and (4) natural, not in the sense that they are derived from a study of human nature, but that they do not depend on human institutions the way legal rights do.
hypothetical imperative
A concept that tells us what we must do on the assumption that we have some particular goal (i.e., if that is what you want, then this is what you must do, so if you want to go to medical school, you must first take a course in biology).
ideals
Morally important goals, virtues, or notions of excellence worth striving for and largely impacting our actions. Clearly, different ethical systems and cultures impart different ideals and, equally important, different ways of pursuing them.
legal rights
Broadly defined, entitlements to act or have others act in certain ways. They are derived from a society’s specific justice system and can be renounced or transferred, as when one party sells another a house or a business.
maxim
Kantian term referring to the subjective principle of an action, the principle (or rule) that people in effect formulate in determining their conduct.
moral rights
The rights that may be derived from special relationships, roles, or circumstances in which we happen to find ourselves. Unlike legal rights, they are not derived from some specific system of justice.
moral worth
Kantian notion tied to the concepts of good will and duty, stating that our actions can only have moral worth when we respond from a sense of duty. When we act only out of feeling, inclination, or self-interest, our actions—although they may be otherwise identical with ones that spring from the sense of duty—have no true moral worth.
negative rights
One of two broad categories of human rights (the other category being positive rights), they reflect the vital interests that human beings have in being free from outside interference. Those rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights—freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and so on—fall within this category, as do the rights to freedom from injury and to privacy.
nonconsequentialist theories
One of two types of normative theories, they contrast with consequentialist theories, contending that right and wrong are determined by more than the likely consequences of an action. Also calleddeontological theories.
normative theories
In ethics, those that propose some principle or principles for distinguishing right actions from wrong actions. They can be divided into two kinds: consequentialist and nonconsequentialist.
optimal moral code
Not merely the set of rules that would do the most good if everyone conformed to them all the time, but the more complex concept incorporating those rules that can reasonably be taught and obeyed, as well as the costs of inculcating those rules in people. If a principle or rule is part of a person’s moral code, then it will influence the person’s behavior. An optimal moral code takes into account the difficulty of getting people to follow a given set of rules.
positive rights
One of two broad categories of human rights (the other category being negative rights), those that reflect the vital interests of human beings in receiving certain benefits, goods, services, or opportunities. Today, the term often refers to the rights to education, medical care, a decent neighborhood, equal job opportunity, comparable pay, etc.
prima facie obligations
Those obligations that can be overridden by a more important obligation. Ross and many contemporary philosophers believe that all (or at least most) of our moral obligations fall into this category.
psychological egoism
A doctrine that asserts that all actions are selfishly motivated and that truly unselfish actions are therefore impossible. Proponents of the ethical theory of egoism generally attempt to derive their basic moral principle from the alleged fact that human beings are by nature selfish creatures.
rule utilitarianism
The theory that maintains that the utilitarian standard should be applied not to individual actions, but to moral codes as a whole. The rule utilitarian asks what moral code (that is, what set of moral rules) a society should adopt to maximize happiness.
supererogatory actions
Charitable actions that would be good to do but not immoral not to do. Many moral philosophers draw a related distinction between morally required actions as opposed to supererogatory actions.
universal acceptability
A means of determining whether a rule or principle is a moral law, one that must be considered when judging what all rational beings should do. One can embrace something as a moral law only if all other rational beings can also embrace it; thus it has universal acceptability.
utilitarianism
The moral doctrine that we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by our actions. By “good,” utilitarians mean happiness or pleasure. Thus, the greatest happiness of all constitutes the standard that determines whether an action is right or wrong. Two philosophers with a strong interest in legal and social reform, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), were the first to develop the theory explicitly and in detail

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