Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)


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An Ethical Perspective

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus posited that the greatest good was contentment and serenity. Peace of mind, or apatheia , was of the highest value ; self-mastery over one's desires and emotions leads to spiritual peace. The "unconquerable will" is central to this philosophy. The individual's will should be independent and inviolate. Allowing a person to disturb the mental equilibrium is, in essence, offering yourself in slavery.

If a person is free to anger you at will, you have no control over your internal world, and therefore no freedom. Freedom from material attachments is also necessary. If a thing breaks, the person should not be upset, but realize it was a thing that could break. Similarly, if someone should die, those close to them should hold to their serenity because the loved one was made of flesh and blood destined to death. Stoic philosophy says to accept things that cannot be changed, resigning oneself to the existence and enduring in a rational fashion. Death is not feared.

People do not "lose" their life, but instead "return", for they are returning to God who initially gave what the person is as a person. Epictetus said difficult problems in life should not be avoided, but rather embraced. They are spiritual exercises needed for the health of the spirit, just as physical exercise is required for the health of the body. He also stated that sex and sexual desire are to be avoided as the greatest threat to the integrity and equilibrium of a man's mind.

Abstinence is highly desirable. Epictetus said remaining abstinent in the face of temptation was a victory for which a man could be proud. Modern virtue ethics was popularized during the late 20th century in large part as a response to G. Anscombe 's " Modern Moral Philosophy ". Anscombe argues that consequentialist and deontological ethics are only feasible as universal theories if the two schools ground themselves in divine law. As a deeply devoted Christian herself, Anscombe proposed that either those who do not give ethical credence to notions of divine law take up virtue ethics, which does not necessitate universal laws as agents themselves are investigated for virtue or vice and held up to "universal standards", or that those who wish to be utilitarian or consequentialist ground their theories in religious conviction.

In Whose Justice, Whose Rationality? Complete Conduct Principles for the 21st Century [22] blended the Eastern virtue ethics and the Western virtue ethics, with some modifications to suit the 21st Century, and formed a part of contemporary virtue ethics. One major trend in contemporary virtue ethics is the Modern Stoicism movement.

Ethical intuitionism also called moral intuitionism is a family of views in moral epistemology and, on some definitions, metaphysics. At minimum, ethical intuitionism is the thesis that our intuitive awareness of value, or intuitive knowledge of evaluative facts, forms the foundation of our ethical knowledge.

Balancing ethical considerations | ALRC

The view is at its core a foundationalism about moral knowledge: it is the view that some moral truths can be known non-inferentially i. Such an epistemological view implies that there are moral beliefs with propositional contents; so it implies cognitivism. As such, ethical intuitionism is to be contrasted with coherentist approaches to moral epistemology, such as those that depend on reflective equilibrium. Throughout the philosophical literature, the term "ethical intuitionism" is frequently used with significant variation in its sense.


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This article's focus on foundationalism reflects the core commitments of contemporary self-identified ethical intuitionists. Sufficiently broadly defined, ethical intuitionism can be taken to encompass cognitivist forms of moral sense theory. Ethical intuitionism was first clearly shown in use by the philosopher Francis Hutcheson. Later ethical intuitionists of influence and note include Henry Sidgwick , G.

Moore , Harold Arthur Prichard , C. Lewis and, most influentially, Robert Audi. Objections to ethical intuitionism include whether or not there are objective moral values- an assumption which the ethical system is based upon- the question of why many disagree over ethics if they are absolute, and whether Occam's razor cancels such a theory out entirely.

Hedonism posits that the principal ethic is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. There are several schools of Hedonist thought ranging from those advocating the indulgence of even momentary desires to those teaching a pursuit of spiritual bliss.

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In their consideration of consequences, they range from those advocating self-gratification regardless of the pain and expense to others, to those stating that the most ethical pursuit maximizes pleasure and happiness for the most people. Founded by Aristippus of Cyrene, Cyrenaics supported immediate gratification or pleasure. There was little to no concern with the future, the present dominating in the pursuit of immediate pleasure. Cyrenaic hedonism encouraged the pursuit of enjoyment and indulgence without hesitation, believing pleasure to be the only good.


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  • Epicurean ethics is a hedonist form of virtue ethics. Epicurus " Epicureans observed that indiscriminate indulgence sometimes resulted in negative consequences. Some experiences were therefore rejected out of hand, and some unpleasant experiences endured in the present to ensure a better life in the future.

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    To Epicurus, the summum bonum , or greatest good, was prudence, exercised through moderation and caution. Excessive indulgence can be destructive to pleasure and can even lead to pain. For example, eating one food too often makes a person lose a taste for it.


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    Eating too much food at once leads to discomfort and ill-health. Pain and fear were to be avoided. Living was essentially good, barring pain and illness. Death was not to be feared. Fear was considered the source of most unhappiness. Conquering the fear of death would naturally lead to a happier life.

    Epicurus reasoned if there were an afterlife and immortality, the fear of death was irrational.

    If there was no life after death, then the person would not be alive to suffer, fear or worry; he would be non-existent in death. It is irrational to fret over circumstances that do not exist, such as one's state of death in the absence of an afterlife. State consequentialism , also known as Mohist consequentialism, [27] is an ethical theory that evaluates the moral worth of an action based on how much it contributes to the basic goods of a state. The "material wealth" of Mohist consequentialism refers to basic needs like shelter and clothing, and the "order" of Mohist consequentialism refers to Mozi's stance against warfare and violence, which he viewed as pointless and a threat to social stability.

    Stanford sinologist David Shepherd Nivison , in The Cambridge History of Ancient China , writes that the moral goods of Mohism "are interrelated: more basic wealth, then more reproduction; more people, then more production and wealth In contrast to Bentham's views, state consequentialism is not utilitarian because it is not hedonistic or individualistic.

    The importance of outcomes that are good for the community outweigh the importance of individual pleasure and pain. Consequentialism refers to moral theories that hold the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action or create a structure for judgment, see rule consequentialism. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence.

    Balancing ethical considerations

    This view is often expressed as the aphorism "The ends justify the means". The term "consequentialism" was coined by G. Anscombe in her essay " Modern Moral Philosophy " in , to describe what she saw as the central error of certain moral theories, such as those propounded by Mill and Sidgwick. The defining feature of consequentialist moral theories is the weight given to the consequences in evaluating the rightness and wrongness of actions. Apart from this basic outline, there is little else that can be unequivocally said about consequentialism as such.

    However, there are some questions that many consequentialist theories address:. One way to divide various consequentialisms is by the many types of consequences that are taken to matter most, that is, which consequences count as good states of affairs. According to utilitarianism , a good action is one that results in an increase and positive effect, and the best action is one that results in that effect for the greatest number.

    Closely related is eudaimonic consequentialism, according to which a full, flourishing life, which may or may not be the same as enjoying a great deal of pleasure, is the ultimate aim.

    Similarly, one might adopt an aesthetic consequentialism, in which the ultimate aim is to produce beauty. However, one might fix on non-psychological goods as the relevant effect. Thus, one might pursue an increase in material equality or political liberty instead of something like the more ephemeral "pleasure". Other theories adopt a package of several goods, all to be promoted equally. Whether a particular consequentialist theory focuses on a single good or many, conflicts and tensions between different good states of affairs are to be expected and must be adjudicated.

    Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that argues the proper course of action is one that maximizes a positive effect, such as "happiness", "welfare", or the ability to live according to personal preferences. In A Fragment on Government Bentham says 'it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong' and describes this as a fundamental axiom.

    In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation he talks of 'the principle of utility' but later prefers "the greatest happiness principle". Utilitarianism is the paradigmatic example of a consequentialist moral theory. This form of utilitarianism holds that the morally correct action is the one that produces the best outcome for all people affected by the action. John Stuart Mill , in his exposition of utilitarianism, proposed a hierarchy of pleasures, meaning that the pursuit of certain kinds of pleasure is more highly valued than the pursuit of other pleasures.

    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)
    Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics) Complexity, Difference and Identity: An Ethical Perspective: 26 (Issues in Business Ethics)

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