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For Business Ethics, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 403

Essay

When considering ethical decisions in the realm of business, it is pertinent to note the etymology of the term ethics, as derived from the Ancient Greek word ethos, which means dwelling. (Meskimmon, 2005 p. 49) What is crucial about this etymology is that it implies that people dwell together in society: ethics is constituted by positive relations between people. In this regard, business appears immediately anti-ethical, because it is based on profit and exploitation. For example, business thrives on interest, which in the Christian ethics is considered to be the sin of usury. As Jones et al. (2010) note, the primary problem “with business ethics is individualism.” (p. 4)

How then to make an ethical business decision if business is essentially individualistic? Following the etymology of ethics, we can say that the first step is to consider how a particular decision does not only affect an individual but also other people, in the sense of a shared dwelling space. Thus, any ethical decision in business must emphasize the Other as opposed to the individual. From this perspective, one can then make the subsequent step to reflect on what is best for the Other. The ethical course of action will thus first prioritize a non-individualistic approach and thereafter decide how to realize this approach.

Let us consider a personal ethical dilemma. I am the owner and sole employee of a loan company. A poor single mother desperately needs a loan. However, the interest rates are too high and would be impossible to pay off. One decision would be to reject her application, thus emphasizing my individual interests as owner of the company. The radically ethical decision would be to first prioritize her need. Therefore, in thinking what to do, I stress what is best for the single mother. Accordingly, the ethical decision would be to loan her the money without interest, as an act of charity. There will be other opportunities to earn money from a richer loan applicant. Usury is by definition a form of exploitation, since one expects more money returned that one lends. It is, in essence, taking advantage of a person at a time of need. Ethical decisions in business, to be true to ethics, must emphasize the Other over the individual.

Works Cited

Jones, Campbell, Parker, Martin, and ten Bos, Rene. (2005). For Business Ethics. London: Routledge.

Meskimmon, Marsha. (2010). Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination: Politics, Ethics, Affect. Oxford, UK: Taylor & Francis.

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