The paper "Ethical Theory and Application to Business and Professional Practice" is a perfect example of business coursework. The term ‘ ethics’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘ ethos’ which originally meant customs, habitual conduct or usages (Melden, 2008). The word ethics has different definitions and may mean differently to different people. Ethics in the broadest sense provides the basic conditions for acceptance for any activity. Ethics, in general, is a type of moral philosophy and it must be defined based on the context in which it is used. Within the context of business practices ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour or business activities.
It is basically what society believes is right or wrong with reference to a business activity or behaviour (Zarka, 2007). A fuller but static definition of ethics is provided by Chryssides & Kaler (1993). They define ethics as “ A common set of principles prescribing a behaviour code that explains what is good and right or bad and wrong; it may even outline moral duty and obligations. ” (p. 51). Olley (2006), says that ethics within the business community is a complex issue not only because it deals with right and wrong but also because it must deal with determining the thin line between life and death, profit over public interest, employees or employee interests etc.
This is because business is, in essence, a survival activity. The human and legal side of the business must also be considered when dealing with the activity. Ethical theories emphasize different aspects of an ethical quandary and aid in arriving at the most ethically correct solution based on the guidelines given in the ethical theory itself. Utilitarianism is an ethical theory according to which the morality of an act is determined exclusively by its contribution to overall utility.
The moral value of an act according to this theory depends on the relation it has to the maximization of the total average utility it can offer. The underlying belief in this theory is that one must do what produces the greatest overall good consequences for everyone. To a utilitarian, the choice that brings about the greatest benefit to the most number of people is the choice that is ethically correct.
In utilitarianism, the more the good resulting from an action, the more utility it has. The lesser the good, the less utility it possesses. One primary benefit of this theory is that one can compare similar predicted solutions or outcomes and use a point system to ascertain which solution offers the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people (Rainbow, 2002). This is done by examining the various courses of action open during an ethical dilemma, calculating the consequences attached to each course of action and deciding on the choice that produces the greatest overall good consequences for everyone concerned.
The theory is consequentialist and computational. Ethical issues can be resolved objectively by computing the outcomes (Hinman, 1999). Furthermore, the point system supplies a rationale as well as a logical argument for each course of action and allows one to utilize it based on a case by case context. Utilitarianism is said to deal with something that is indisputably important to human life, namely the promotion of happiness or in other words the satisfaction of human preferences (Scarre, 1996).
When faced with two choices, one producing happiness and the other producing unhappiness, according to the theory of utilitarianism, the one producing the most happiness must be chosen. When choosing between two options, both of which produce happiness, the action giving the most amount of happiness must be chosen. This is because happiness is the only desirable thing as an end itself. Happiness is, therefore, the only good in itself and unhappiness is the ultimate evil (Chryssides & Kaler, 1993, p 92).
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