Ethical Issues in Business - Philosophy 6

Dr. David L. Perry
Santa Clara University
Spring 2003, TTh 1:45-3:30 p.m.

Course Objectives

In business as in other arenas of life, it's 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 will satisfy the Ethics core requirement.

Course Requirements

Your final grade in the course will be largely determined by averaging the letter grades of two essay exams and a 6-7-page paper. Regular attendance as well as informed and courteous participation in class discussions are also essential. Unexcused absences and lack of participation can have a detrimental effect on your final grade, even if your other assigned work is stellar. If you need to miss all or part of a class session, try to inform me beforehand.

During the essay 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. Please write your exams in non-erasable ink. Remember that cheating on exams and plagiarism on papers are serious breaches of academic ethics, and can lead not only to your flunking the course but also to other disciplinary actions, including expulsion from SCU. See also the section below on "Writing with Integrity."

Required Readings

1) James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, fourth edition (2003).
2) CoursePack containing miscellaneous Harvard Business School (HBS) cases and articles.
3) Other articles that I've posted on the web via Orradre Library's Electronic Reserves (ERes), which you'll need to download and print. You might end up paying SCU for the cost of printing if you use university equipment.

Course Schedule

April 1 - Introduction to the course. View PBS Frontline film, "How to Steal $500 Million."

April 3 - James Rachels, Elements of Moral Philosophy, chapters 1-2 (on morality and cultural relativism).

April 8 - Rachels ch. 4, and Ron Green, "Religion and Business Ethics," on ERes.

April 10 - Rachels chs. 5-6 (on psychological and ethical egoism).

Have you identified some possible topics for your paper? Have you begun researching them carefully? Do you need my advice on how to proceed?

April 15 - Milton Friedman, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits," and Kermit Vandivier, "The Aircraft Brake Scandal," both on ERes.

April 17 - Rachels chs. 7-8 (on utilitarian ethics).

April 22 - Robert Pollan, “An Animal’s Place,” and Foundation for Biomedical Research articles, on ERes.

April 24 - Rachels chs. 9-10 (on Kantian ethics).

How is your paper coming along? Are you pleased with what your research has turned up? Are you developing a tightly reasoned essay?

April 29 - HBS cases: "Sears Auto Centers," and "Lotus Marketplace: Households."

May 1 - Midterm examination.

May 6 - Rachels ch. 11 (on social contract theories), and Gretchen Morgenson, “Pressuring Analysts: Hard Habit to Break,” on ERes.

May 8 - HBS cases: "Corruption in International Business (A)," and "Global Approaches to Anti-Corruption."

May 13 - HBS case, “Nestle Alimentana—Infant Formula.”

May 15 - William Newburry and Thomas Gladwin, "Shell and Nigerian Oil," on ERes.

Are you nearly ready to turn in a carefully written draft paper to me? Have you checked it for clarity, grammar, and spelling? Have you sought advice from writing tutors? Does your draft satisfy the Guidelines explained at the end of this syllabus?

May 20 - HBS cases: "Hitting the Wall: Nike and International Labor Practices," and "Levi Strauss & Co: Global Sourcing."

May 22 - HBS case: “Charles Veillon, S.A.”

May 23 (Friday) - This is the last day I’ll accept draft papers for comment. Submitting a draft of your paper is recommended, but not mandatory.

May 27 - HBS article: Thomas Donaldson, "Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home."

May 29 - Karl Schoenberger, articles on e-waste in China, on ERes. View film, “Exporting Harm.” Guest speaker: Chad Raphael.

June 3 - Articles on The Gap, on ERes. Guest speaker: Dan Henkle.

June 5 - SCU policies and practices regarding suppliers and donors, on ERes. Guest speakers: Jim Briggs and Jim Purcell.

June 6 (Friday) - The final version of your paper (hard copy) is due in my office or in-box by 4:30 p.m. An electronic version must be submitted to

June 12 (Thursday), 9:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. - Final examination.

You may pick up your graded paper and final exam on or after June 19. Or if you would rather that I mail them to you, give me a 9x12 envelope with your name, address, and 3 oz. postage.

A Note regarding

On or before June 6, you’ll need to give me a hard copy of the final version of your paper, and also send an electronic version of your paper to an organization on the web called That organization will compare the text of your paper with various websites and thousands of other student papers in its database, and indicate to me any evidence of plagiarism. I regret having to resort to this, but unfortunately almost every quarter at least one of my students tries to submit a plagiarized paper as if it were his/her own work. To those of you who would never even think of doing that, please don’t consider this an insult to your integrity, but rather as an effort on my part to prevent less scrupulous students from fraudulently obtaining an equal or better grade than yours on this assignment.

Guidelines for Your Paper

Topics and Sources - 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 (6-7 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. Don't choose a topic where the only credible ethical arguments favor one side: e.g., don't write a paper on why it's immoral to embezzle.

Suggestion #1: Examine the ethical strengths and weaknesses of some company that has a tangible relationship with SCU, e.g., a supplier of contract labor, a manufacturer of products with SCU logos, a major donor, or a company in which SCU invests. Compare it with a competing company, and indicate which one presents the more ethical alternative and why.

Suggestion #2: Pick a shareholder resolution currently sponsored by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), Then find at least one source that takes a stance different from ICCR's. Explain the strengths and weaknesses in the arguments on both sides, and which argument you find most persuasive.

Suggestion #3: Examine a broader topic in business ethics. 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 tackle 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 that produce conflicting conclusions, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

Orradre Library has some useful research tools online, including ABI/INFORM Global, Philosopher's Index and ATLA Religion Index. Also, I have listed some relevant sites on my personal web page: You might also want to scan back issues of scholarly publications like Business Ethics Quarterly to see if particular topics addressed there are of interest to you.

Format - Your paper should be typed and double-spaced, have one-inch margins on all sides, and employ a 12-point font in a style like Times Roman (not Courier). Do not add covers or a title page; simply provide your name and the title at the top of the first page of the body of your essay, and staple the pages together in the upper left corner. Recall that you'll need to submit a hard copy of your paper to me, and an electronic version to

Editing - I am willing to comment on a draft of your paper at least two weeks prior to the due date for the final product. Check carefully to eliminate all errors in spelling and grammar, even in your draft. My energies should be spent analyzing the quality of your arguments rather than correcting mistakes that you could easily have caught yourself.  The Drahmann Advising and Learning Center can help to improve the quality of your essay before you turn it in to me. Make appointments with their staff well before the date your paper is due, though, to avoid the rush.

Writing with Integrity - Hugo Bedau wrote in Thinking and Writing about Philosophy, p. 141: "Writers plagiarize when they use another's words or ideas without suitable acknowledgement. Plagiarism amounts to theft--theft of language and thought. Plagiarism also involves deception…. [Plagiarism] wrongs the person from whom the words or thoughts were taken and to whom no credit was given; and it wrongs the reader by fraudulently misrepresenting the words or thoughts as though they are the writer's own." I would add that plagiarism is often unfair to your fellow students, since in contrast to their honest and hard work, it involves almost no effort to steal another author's words.

Finally, although it sounds like a cliche, when you plagiarize you also cheat yourself: first, by not developing the discipline and diligence to research, write and edit well; second, because taking credit for other people's ideas will induce outrage and resentment against you; and third, because the practice of plagiarism can end your career and destroy your reputation--witness what happened to the prominent historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin when substantial parts of their books were revealed to have been plagiarized.

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 or hers, and then imply (by not using direct quotes) that the paragraph is entirely your own prose. (It might help to imagine the author reading over your shoulder.)

Some additional practices are unethical for similar reasons:

1) You may not submit a paper that you did not write yourself, whether given to you by a sympathetic friend, purchased on the web, or written by a paid "tutor." Although (unlike plagiarism) this would not represent a case of theft, it would nonetheless be unfair to your peers, and would also perpetrate a fraud on your professor.

2) You may not submit a paper to me that is substantially similar to one that you wrote for another class, since both I and your fellow students rightly assume that you will be doing new research for this course.

List full references alphabetically at the end of your paper, using the following format:

   1) Book (non-anthology): author's name, book title (publisher, date). An example: Hugo Bedau, Thinking and Writing about Philosophy (Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1996).

   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. An example: Robert Arrington, "Advertising and Behavior Control," in William Shaw and Vincent Barry, Moral Issues in Business, eighth edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001), pp. 529-535.

   3) Periodical article: author, "article title," periodical title volume/issue (date): pages. An example: Karen Musalo, "When Rights and Cultures Collide," Issues in Ethics 8/3 (Summer 1997): 2-5.

   4) Web page: author, "title of page or article" (organization name, date), URL. An example: Alex Moseley, "Just War Theory" (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1998),

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). An example:  (Bedau 141).

The syllabus, lectures and discussion questions for this course are copyrighted by David L. Perry, and may not be sold or distributed without his explicit permission. For an explanation of copyright laws in relation to lecture notes, etc., see Mathieu Deflem, "Teaching Laws: The Legal Protection of Education and Its Relevance for Online Notes Companies," 5 November 1999, on the web at

Go to Dr. Perry's CV.