Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

Business Meta-Ethics: an Analysis of Two Theories

Category business
Essay type Analysis
Words 1378 (5 pages)
Views 459

Article Review? In the article “Business Meta-Ethics: An Analysis of two theories” written by “F. Neil Brandy and Craig P. Dunn” he has examined the two popular theories of ethics viz. traditional ethical theory (utilitarianism and deontological) and a recent model (consisting of utility, rights, justice). The writer differentiates and supports the traditional ethical theory by giving facts and practical examples. The writer starts the article by saying that presenting an ethical theory is impulsive. But, no doubt the theory of deontology and utilitarianism by Kant can’t be ignored.

Many writers have added several other perspectives like egoism, virtue theory, theories of justice, rights, universalism, ethical relativism, ethics of caring etc. so, the writer says that the foundations of ethics are not secure. Humans are complex creatures and are hard to understand. No one theory will be able to prove it. Conversely, it would be quite interesting to understand human behavior from different perspectives. After that the writer explains the human behavior by giving a very interesting example of automobile engine.

He says that the engines have benefited by over and over refinement, but the fundamental design that came early (piston, turbine, electric etc. ) were not altered. Similarly, we need to make some fundamental decisions related to the basic understanding of a human behavior instead of hindering it. The main purpose of the writer is to focus and assess two dominant ethical theories for the managers. The first one is the “traditional ethical theory” viz. Kant’s theories of deontology and utilitarianism (DU) that have been considered competing but the recent research shows that they are complementing, not competing to each other.

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Kantian deontology and utilitarianism provides the ideals for decision making. The second one is the recent model of “utility-rights-justice model” (URJ). It opposes that there are three instead of two main requirements that completes the ethical business decision making namely, questions of utility, questions of rights and questions of justice. The writer intends to claim the precedence of traditional DU model. He proceeds by discussing three important points. First, that the URJ model can easily be simplified into the DU model. Second, he presents 3 practical cases to prove the superiority of DU model.

Third, is the difference between universals and particulars. The writer explains the DU model first; he says that this model is often cited as dominant theory for application in business ethics. Other writers like Pastin (1986) say that this model is quite useful from a practical point of view. Pastin says that the two views “rule ethics” and “end-point ethics” are both included in his tool box for handling the hard problems of management. In 1985, Brady proposed a “Janus Headed” relationship of deontology and utilitarianism are complementary and taken together, a reasonably comprehensive model of managerial decision making.

In 1992, Cody and Lynn presented this idea in their book “honest Govt. ” By saying that in real life, none of us is exclusively utilitarian or deontological. Our personal values reflect a mix of these view points, depending on issue. Sometimes we act solely as a matter of principle and sometimes we act practically utilitarian. Then the writer evaluates the URJ model. He says that this model attempted to act on the need to evaluate the political behavior in organizations. So, they made the 3 basic types of moral theories: utility, rights and justice. They urged that this model could be applied to political uses of power in organizations”.

Two years later, Velasquez combined this model into his well-known book “Business ethics: Concept and Cases. Where he argued that the philosophy of Kant supplied “a more satisfied foundation for moral rights and he added a short discussion of categorical imperative with his claim. After introducing both the models, the writer gives the argument for the supremacy of DU model. Writer says that the URJ model abandons the deontological theory of Kant. It relies on the lesser known works The Metaphysical Elements of Justice (1797). Why did they cite Kant for his work on human rights but not cite him for his much important.

And he says that the 3 basic kinds of moral theories; utilitarian, rights and justice seems imperfect. Writer says that the DU model encapsulates much of the URJ model. First, the issues of individual rights and duties are included under Kant’s deontological ethical theory. The DU model merges the rights and duties. Where one has rights, others have duties. Kant argues that the duties are strategically more important. Duties not only include duties to each other, but duties to family, community and environment. Certain duties are can’t be converted into someone’s rights like paying taxes and towards environment.

So, the idea of moral duty is more comprehensive than the individual right. DU model also encapsulates the justice prescription. URJ model says that the organizational rules must be clearly stated and consistently and impartially enforced. And the people must not be held responsible for the things they cannot control, if people are injured, the injuries must be compensated by those who are responsible for the injuries. The writer says that the same things are suggested by the existing theories and there is no need to for separate theories of justice.

So, the URJ model is incomplete, as it neglects the historical deontological theory and it requires 3 categories, when only 2 are necessary. Now the writer illustrates by three short cases. 1. Political clout In this when there are to proposals that are equally at merit. So the dilemma is to be resolved procedurally. Now, on applicant applies pressure and succeeds in influencing the choice. For a utilitarian point of view, the decision makers did was wrong in the long term because it sets an example and it may encourage political behavior and risk the integrity of organization.

A fair way would be to flip a coin. So the DU model gives a simple and appropriate analysis of case, without separate theories of justice. 2. Letter of recommendation Now a manager has to write a letter of recommendation for a problem employee. Now, he wants to be honest but it would be nice for a voluntary employee exit. If you look at it with a URJ model, utility would want a positive letter, because it would benefit the org. if we look at the rights, then the employee has the right to expect appraisal or not. In contrast to the DU model can do a better job, as the moral duty is to be honest. 3.

Making an offer Suppose there is a position open at an org. and the supervisor responsible for it knows the exact person required for the job but the co. policies says to announce and publicize all openings, giving everyone a chance to apply. Should the manager open the chance or make an offer? Utility would say to make an offer but that will ignore company’s policy. So a deontological approach will recommend opening the search. So now, there’s no dilemma. But when we talk about the URJ model, then the dilemma will arise because of duty and utility conflict. After that the writer tells us about the status f universals and particulars in ethics. Deontological ethics thinks that all ethical prescriptions can be expressed as universal obligations. Rough examples include “do not kill’ and “always tell the truth”. Such principles try to observe the ways in which all humans can be alike. While, utilitarianism is a situational ethics. It requires that we attend to particularities of human living in case we fail to achieve good ends. In the conclusion the writer says that the advantages of DU model includes that it provides a genuine theory and lays a secure foundation in the field of business ethics.

The DU model has a relation to hold among the two variables of complement. Another advantage includes Kant’s universalizability. The writer has addressed the topic very nicely and has used a lot of references to prove and support his argument. But still I didn’t find the article very clear and it was confusing at times. The part of the article where he says that the moral duty is more strategic than individual right is not very persuasive. The writer didn’t end the 3 illustrations clearly. Otherwise, the writer explained the differences and advantages of DU model over URJ model very smoothly.

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Business Meta-Ethics: an Analysis of Two Theories. (2017, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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