Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Ethical Theories and Legal Issues in Business Management

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Ethics also known as moral philosophy was defined as a “systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong”. There are normative ethical theories for the purpose of identifying moral standards to separate wrong and right conduct. It includes recognizing good practices and habits, proper duties and obligations to follow as well as the consequences of our behaviors and decisions in general. (Fieser, 2006) Common normative ethical theories applied in business are relativism, pragmatism, behaviorism and positivism.

Relativism as a philosophical doctrine is the denial of ethical absolutes. Famous philosophers known as relativist include Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Derrida. In business it means that all practices or beliefs can be equally valid and good. It also asserts that moral values are relative to particular standpoint or culture. (Westacott, 2006)

Pragmatism as another philosophical doctrine operates on the belief that something is right if it works satisfactorily. Pragmatic people in business are guided by practical experiences and observation rather than theory. The practical consequences are the criteria for what is valuable. Pragmatism originated in the United States during the late nineteenth century. Well known pragmatists were Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey. (McDermid, 2006)

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Behaviorism on the other hand was a movement in psychology and philosophy that believes in the interpretation of human actions as totally determined and predictable. B.F. Skinner, a well known behaviorist stressed prediction and control of behavior. In business it could explain why a certain behavior can be adapted in an organization. (Hauser, 2006)

Positivism as a conceptual theory is the process of equating knowledge with observable experience. Positivists are similar to rationalist. In the business ethics, laws or rules need not have to be morally or ethically right for them to be accepted. (Himma, 2006)

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