A Note on Relativism

13 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by R. Edward Freeman

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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Abstract

This note examines the concept of relativism as it often appears in business. It discusses four separate types of relativism, and lays out the reasons why relativism is a bad idea.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0187

A Note on Relativism

We have often heard businesspeople talk about how difficult it is to make ethical decisions. This note is written to answer critics who would claim that you do not need to engage in conversations about ethics because everything is relative. If we accept relativism on its own terms, then the reflection, analysis, and reason-giving associated with ethics becomes fruitless. While relativism is based on some important insights about morality, we want to suggest reasons it should be rejected. The following conversations highlight some types of this logic:

Conversation 1: The Case of the Fake Résumé

Jones: Did you hear about Peters? He's been with the company for two years and the personnel people finally got around to doing a routine check on his credentials. Seems that his résumé wasn't exactly kosher. Good old Andy invented a Harvard MBA and dreamed up five years of experience in the computer industry, when in reality he was driving a cab for most of his life.

Smith: That's really too bad. I've worked with Andy on a project during the last year. He's made quite a contribution to the strategic planning process here. They fired him on the spot. I'm not sure how we'll replace him.

. . .

Keywords: ethical issues

Suggested Citation

Freeman, R. Edward and Wicks, Andrew, A Note on Relativism. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0187. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1277725

R. Edward Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-924-0935 (Phone)
804-924-6378 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/freeman.htm

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

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