Business Ethics - Philosophy 351

Dr. David Perry
Seattle University, Spring 1999

Course Objectives

In business as in other arenas of life, it is important for us to develop moral wisdom and moral courage: wisdom to recognize when an ethical problem arises, as well as to make sound decisions in situations of moral conflict; and courage to do what we know is right even when there are strong pressures or incentives to do otherwise. Hence, the primary objectives of this course are: 1) to increase your awareness of a wide range of ethical challenges that can arise in business; 2) to enable you to test the strengths and weaknesses of various moral beliefs and ethical arguments relevant to business practices; and 3) to reinforce your personal sense of compassion and fairness in the context of your current or future professional roles.

This course satisfies the Phase III Core requirement in Philosophy. PL 210 or 220 is a mandatory prerequisite.

Course Requirements

Your final grade in the course will be largely determined by averaging the letter grades of a 6- to 8-page paper and two essay exams (a midterm and a final). Thus each of those three items will be worth roughly 33% of your final grade. Attendance and participation are also required. Unexcused absences, repeated tardiness, and lack of participation in class discussions (a sign that you're not keeping up with the readings) can have a detrimental effect on your final grade. If you know that you will miss all or part of a class session, try to let me know beforehand.

The paper must deal in some way with business ethics, and incorporate ideas from at least two sources outside of the assigned course readings. Be sure to consult my attached "Guidelines for Your Paper," and Seattle University's "Student Guide to Editing and Style," available for a nominal fee in the bookstore.

For the midterm and final exams you won't be allowed to use any notes or books, with the exception of translation dictionaries (in print form, not pocket computers) for students whose primary language is not English. You'll need to obtain an unused "bluebook" from the bookstore for each exam. Write your exams in non-erasable ink only.

Remember that cheating on exams and plagiarism on papers are serious breaches of academic ethics, and can lead not only to your flunking this course but to other disciplinary actions as well, including expulsion from the university.

Required Texts

1) William Shaw and Vincent Barry, Moral Issues in Business, seventh edition.
2) David Perry, Supplementary Readings in Business Ethics, available soon for a nominal fee in the Philosophy Dept.

Course Schedule

March 29 - Introduction to the course. View film, "How to Steal $500 Million."

March 31 - Shaw & Barry (S&B), pages 2-25 and 33-41 (The Nature of Morality; It's Good Business)

April 5 - S&B 51-75 and 84-89 (Normative Theories of Ethics; What Would a Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like?)

April 7 - S&B 95-117 and 120-121 (Justice and Economic Distribution; Poverty in America)

April 12 - S&B 140-157 and 164-165 (The Nature of Capitalism; A New Work Ethic?)

April 14 - S&B 188-208 and 516-528 (Corporations; The Environment I)

April 19 - S&B 248-268 (The Workplace (1): Basic Issues)

April 21 - S&B 294-313, 315-317 and 211-213 (The Workplace (2): Today's Challenges; Testing for Honesty; Living and Dying with Asbestos)

April 26 - S&B 325-330 (Drug Testing in Employment); and in Perry, Supplementary Readings: "Genetic Discrimination," "States Pass Laws to Regulate Uses of Genetic Testing," and "The Paradox of Genetic Privacy"

April 28 - MIDTERM EXAM

May 3 - S&B 347-354, 358-366 and 28-31 (Moral Choices Facing Employees; Profiting on Columns Prior to Publication; The A7D Affair)

May 5 - S&B 410-429 and 319-321 (Job Discrimination; Minority Set-Asides; Protecting the Unborn at Work)

May 10 - S&B 460-473 and 486-487 (Consumers [1]; Hot Coffee at McDonald's)

May 11 - S&B 473-484 and 496-510 (Consumers [2]; A Moral Evaluation of Sales Practices; Advertising and Behavior Control)

May 17 - S&B 25-27, 78-80, and 214-216 (Made in the USA, Dumped in Brazil...; The Ford Pinto; Selling Infant Formula Abroad); in Perry, Supplementary Readings: "Breast-Feeding and H.I.V."

May 19 - In Perry, Supplementary Readings: Everest, Behind the Poison Cloud: Union Carbide's Bhopal Massacre, pp. 11-64

May 21 - This is the last day I'll accept drafts of papers for comment.

May 24 - In Perry, Supplementary Readings: "Stolen Youth"; "Nike Pledges to End Child Labor and Apply U.S. Rules Abroad"; "Exporting Rights"; "Reversing Course, Levi Strauss Will Expand Its Output in China"; "Levi Strauss to Shut Half of Its Factories in U.S. and Canada"

May 26 - S&B 354-358 and 391-400 (Bribes and Kickbacks, Gifts and Entertainment; A Business Traveler's Guide to Gifts and Bribes); and in Perry, Supplementary Readings: "The Destructive Costs of Greasing Palms"; "Executive Legal Summary"; and "29 Nations Agree to Outlaw Bribing Foreign Officials"

May 31 - Memorial Day (no class)

June 2 - S&B 544-549 and 554-560 (The Place of Nonhumans in Environmental Issues; Business and Environmental Ethics); and in Perry, Supplementary Readings: American Meat Institute, "Humane Slaughter Act and Voluntary Industry Guidelines," and Raver, "Qualities of an Animal Scientist"

June 4 (Friday) - Papers are due in my box by 4:30 p.m.

June 7 - In Perry, Supplementary Readings: "Lawsuits by Rivals Accuse Textile Maker of Corporate Espionage," and "Corporate Policy and the Ethics of Competitor Intelligence Gathering"

June 9 - FINAL EXAM, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

You may pick up your graded exam and paper in the Philosophy Department after June 16. Or if you would rather have me mail them to you, leave me a self-addressed 9x12 envelope with $.99 postage.

Guidelines for Your Paper

The paper must deal in some way with business ethics, and incorporate ideas from at least two sources outside of the assigned course readings. (You may use assigned readings, but you aren't required to do so.) Newspaper or magazine articles may be cited, but your main sources should be scholarly. Since the paper is to be fairly short (6-8 pages), it's important to focus your topic narrowly in order to do it justice. I strongly recommend that you elicit feedback from me on your paper topic soon, so that I can steer you away from inappropriate subjects and toward useful research sources. I am also willing to comment on a draft of your paper at least two weeks prior to the due date for the final product. The Seattle University library has some useful research tools, including ABI/Inform, Business Periodicals Index, Philosopher's Index, Journal of Business Ethics and Business and Society Review. Many other books and journals are available at the library of the UW School of Business Admin. (e.g., Business Ethics Quarterly and Business and Professional Ethics Journal). Also, I have listed a number of recommended web sites on my personal web page.

You may use the paper to argue in support of one side of an ethical issue. If so, then you should not only find substantial arguments in support of that position, but also substantial arguments against that position. In other words, try to show that your position successfully withstands strong criticism. Alternatively, you might want to explore an ethical issue without taking a firm stance on either side. In that case also, find substantial arguments on both sides, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. It may help to ask yourself as you read: What sort of ethical argument is this? Is it consequentialist or nonconsequentialist? Has the author anticipated serious objections to his/her argument? Are the ethical principles assumed or advocated by the author likely to conflict in some situations? Are any significant ethical principles ignored? If the argument depends in part on empirical studies, are they strong ones, or do they ignore important evidence? Is what the author proposes realistic in economic or business terms? (These questions are meant to be suggestive, not mandatory or exhaustive.)

Be very careful to avoid plagiarism. You must cite your sources everywhere in your paper where you use their ideas, and not only when you quote them directly but also where you paraphrase their points in your own words. In general, you should only use direct quotes when you find the authors' wording to be especially effective. But your paraphrasing or summaries of authors' points should be thorough: it's not fair to an author to change only a couple of words in a paragraph of his/hers and then imply (by not using direct quotes) that the paragraph is entirely your own prose.

Give full references at the end of your paper, using a standard citation format:

1) Book (non-anthology): author's name, book title (publisher, date).
2) Article in an anthology: name of the article's author, "article title," name of the editor of the anthology, book title (publisher, date), pages.
3) Periodical article: author, "article title," periodical title, volume/issue (date): pages.
4) Web page: author, "title of page or article" (organization name, date), URL.

Within your text, e.g., at the end of a paragraph or a direct quote, you may refer to a source simply as (author, pages).


Go to Dr. Perry's CV.