An Introduction to Ethics: Framing and Key Themes in Business Ethics

6 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2009 Last revised: 9 Oct 2018

See all articles by Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jared D. Harris

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This technical note provides an introduction to the some of the key concepts of ethics relevant to business.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0340

Rev. Sept. 26, 2018

An Introduction to Ethics: Framing and Key Themes in Business Ethics

You represent a small investment firm in country X. You want to gain access to a business in another country where business is based on relationships. You met with a potential broker whom you are led to believe is both trustworthy and could connect you with the kind of organizations that are vital to the success of your firm and doing business in country X. During the meeting, which the broker has arranged at his home, he tells you that trust is vital to doing business with him and that he needs to know that you can be trusted. He asks you to deposit $ 80,000 in a bank account he specifies within 24 hours. Once he receives the money, he will wire it back to your account. He says without trust and your show of good faith, he will be unable to do business with you. You ask around and find that requests such as this are common practice. What do you do?

Most people have one of two reactions to this kind of situation. Either they have a strong moral intuition toward one of the options, or they experience conflicting moral intuitions and cannot decide between the two. They ask themselves: “Is this person honest and simply testing me and then will be the broker I hope for, or is this a set-up and I'm being asked to pay a bribe—or simply give away $ 80,000 for nothing? Moral intuitions or sentiments (as Adam Smith called them) are our gut reactions to situations as to what is right or wrong. They are developed over time from our past experiences and social interactions. We may regret decisions that are based just on moral intuition when we find they missed the mark or don't stand up to scrutiny. It is only when we do the hard work of analyzing a situation and meshing intuition with reason that we can be confident that we are making the better choice. Turning to analysis and using reason are critical ways to build on moral intuitions and ensure that they stand up under the scrutiny supported by ethics.

What Is Ethics?

. . .

Keywords: ethics, ethical theory, decision making

Suggested Citation

Wicks, Andrew and Parmar, Bidhan L. and Freeman, R. Edward and Harris, Jared D. and Mead, Jenny, An Introduction to Ethics: Framing and Key Themes in Business Ethics. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0340. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1417203

Andrew Wicks (Contact Author)

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

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

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

R. Edward Freeman

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

Jared D. Harris

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.darden.virginia.edu/harrisj

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

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

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