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Philosophy 2397D: Business Ethics
Winter Term 2021: Prof. K. Ferguson
Study Guide for the First Midterm
The first midterm for Philosophy 2397D will take place on Thursday/Friday, February 11/12. On
the midterm you will be asked to answer 6 questions, all of which will be selected from the list
of questions given below. There will be some choice but not much, perhaps 6 out of 7 or 8. The
suggested length for each of your answers is approximately 300-400 words, although some of
your answers may be longer, others a little shorter, depending on the question you are
Note that the midterm will be conducted through Brightspace, under “Assignment” (not
under Content where the Ppts are posted). The questions will be made available to students
beginning Thursday, Feb.11 at 9 AM Eastern Standard Time, and your answers must then be
submitted (uploaded), to Brightspace, by Friday morning at 9 AM.
The midterm is open book (needless to say) and you may discuss the questions with others if
you like. However, you must write your own answers. If two or more students present the
same answer, word for word, for any question, both will receive zero for that question. Also, in
your answers, you must not simply copy material from the Ppt slides or readings; your
answers must be written in your own words (except where you are quoting some source).
Make sure you put your name and student number on your midterm when you upload it.
List of Questions
1) What is the utilitarian moral theory and how do utilitarians (like John Stuart Mill, for
example) try to justify or support their theory as the correct account of right and wrong?
2) Explain in detail the most important objections that arise for (act) utilitarianism. (You should
describe at least four.) How serious are they?
3) Describe as clearly as you can the difference between act and rule utilitarianism, noting
among other things, how rule utilitarianism would help to avoid many of the objections that
arise for act utilitarianism.
4) Describe what was referred to in class as the respect-for-persons version of Kant’s
categorical imperative. What are its main strengths and weaknesses as a moral theory?
Support your view by argument.
5) Describe the universalizability version of Kant’s categorical imperative and illustrate in detail
how it is supposed to work by applying it to examples. What is the relationship between this
version of the CI and the respect for persons version?
What is the “double decker” or “hierarchical” theory of autonomy? Explain
clearly why it is thought to be an improvement over the negative concept of freedom. Is the
double decker theory itself open to any objections?
7) It is clear that we have moral duties both to help others we could help and also moral duties
not to harm others. But is our duty not to harm others in some way stronger or more
stringent than our duties to help others? Defend your view by argument as best you can.
8) Explain as clearly as you can the reasoning by which Albert Carr (in Reading 5) tries to show
that the moral standards that apply in business are different in important respects from
those that apply in conventional, or common sense, morality outside of business. How
convincing is Carr’s reasoning/argument? Support your assessment by argument.
9) Given that the activity of negotiating, or business bluffing (as Carr refers to it) often involves
deception and even lying, how can it be reconciled with common moral injunctions against
lying and deception? (If you think it cannot be reconciled with common sense morality, then
defend your view by argument.)
10) Describe David Holly’s account (discussed in the lecture slides, as well as by Carson in
Reading 7) of the obligations of salespersons, and the rationale or justification he provides
for it? Do you think Holly’s account is accurate? Why or why not?
11) Describe clearly Thomas Carson’s account of the ethics of sales in Reading 7. Identify its
main strengths, as well as its main weaknesses. All things considered, how plausible is
Carson’s account of the obligations of salespersons?
12) In the case study “Closing the Deal” (which is presented at the end of Carson’s article, and
also at the end of the Ppt slides on “The Ethics of Sales”, slides 49/50) a real estate agent
named Jean is encouraged by her director to engage in a practice that is rather common in
sales. Briefly describe this practice and then discuss whether it is morally acceptable.
13) Describe as accurately as you can what it means to manipulate someone. How is it different
from coercion and rational persuasion? Is it accurate to say that, in general (outside of
sales), it is morally wrong to manipulate people in our interactions with them? Should we
concluded, then, that is sales work it is wrong to manipulate customers? (These issues are
discussed in Reading 11.)
14) Many in the advertising industry would claim that most of the advertising we encounter on
a daily basis on TV, the Internet and other places, is not manipulative and deceptive, and
that it would be more accurate to describe it as informative? Do you agree or disagree with
them? Support your view as best you can.
15) Explain briefly what cognitive biases are and give two examples of cognitive biases to
illustrate. Is the existence of cognitive biases in human psychology relevant to whether
manipulative advertising is morally wrong and should therefore be legally banned? In what
way? Defend your opinion by argument.
16) Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Much of the advertising we
encounter on a daily basis is manipulative and deceptive to such an extent that it is morally
unacceptable and, therefore, advertisers have a moral obligation not to engage in this sort
of advertising.” Support your view by argument. (Note that the question you are asked to
discuss here is not whether the advertising should be legally banned.)
17) Summarize as accurately as you can the “utilitarian” arguments put forward by the late
economist John Kenneth Galbraith to show that manipulative advertising is morally
unacceptable and therefore should be banned. How successful are Galbraith’s arguments?
Defend your assessment by argument.
18) All things considered in connection with manipulative advertising, do you think it should
legally banned? If not legally banned, do you think important restrictions should be placed
on such advertising? Why or why not?
Good luck!
Moral theories discussed in Reading 2
Ethical egoism
(– Two forms of Util: Act and Rule)
Kantian Ethics
Ross’s Ethics
(The Five Principles Approach)
Rights-based ethics
What is a moral theory?
A moral theory tries to give a complete answer
to the following question:
What is it that determines whether an act is
right (we have a moral obligation to do it) or
wrong (we have an obligation not to do it)?
Answering this question might help us resolve
moral dilemmas and disagreements.
Two types of moral theory
Consequentialism: Whether an act is right or
wrong depends only on its consequences.
Non-consequentialism: Consequences are not
the only thing that affects the morality of
an act.
Two consequentialist theories:
Ethical Egoism
Ethical egoism
An act is morally right if and only if it is in the
interest of the agent, that is, the one who
does the act.
In other words, an act I do is right if and only
if it is in my interest, an act you do is right if
and only if it is in your interest, and so on.
Two prominent defenders of egoism
Plato – In his famous work The Republic
Thomas Hobbes – 17th century English philosopher, in
his work The Leviathan
Both philosophers argued that, although it might not
seem so at first glance, it is actually in our interest to
follow the rules of conventional (common sense)
But ethical egoism does not seem plausible
There seem to be clear cases of acts that are in
a person’s interest but which are wrong acts.
For example, you keep a lost wallet, with a lot
of money in it, even though you could easily
have returned to its rightful owner.
Sometimes morality requires us to do things
that are not in our own interest.
The most prominent form of consequentialism
Accepted by many philosophers today
Leading defenders include the English
philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
British philosopher,
economist, civil servant
Family friend of Bentham
Major reformer, Member of
Parliament, proponent of
women’s rights
Introduced first Bill to ive
women the vote
Important works:
Utilitarianism, On Liberty
John Stuart Mill
“The creed which accepts as the foundation of
morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness
Principle, holds that actions are right in
proportion as they tend to promote happiness,
wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of
From Utilitarianism, J.S. Mill, Chapter 2
The Utilitarian “Theory of Value”
Distinction between:
Instrumentally good – good as a means
Intrinsically good – good for its own sake
Only one thing is intrinsically good – namely,
Each person’s happiness is of equal value.
Many utilitarians assume further that
Happiness consists of pleasure and the
absence of pain (Hedonism).
Pleasure is understood broadly to include
intellectual, artistic and other pleasures, as
well as physical and sensual pleasures.
Pleasure and pain can be roughly quantified.
Principle of Utility – a more precise statement
An act is morally permissible only if there is no
other act you could have done that would
have produced more overall happiness.
Illustration: Suppose I win $1000.00 in a
lottery. What should I do with the money?
Utilitarianism imposes a high standard
“The happiness which forms the utilitarian
standard of what is right in conduct, is not the
agent’s own happiness, but that of all
concerned. As between his own happiness and
that of others, utilitarianism requires him to
be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and
benevolent spectator.”
(Mill, Utilitarianism)
Utilitarians believe that the principle of
utility alone accounts for all right and
Many utilitarians also believe that to a large
extent this principle underlies our common
sense judgments about right and wrong.
Utilitarianism was (is) very “progressive”
Abolition of slavery
Abolition of child labour
Equality for women
Animal welfare
Programs for public health and safety
Strong obligation to help the poor
Prison reform
Is utilitarianism a plausible moral theory?
We now want to ask whether utilitarianism gives
an accurate account of right and wrong.
To test it, we will look for possible counter
examples, that is, examples of acts that util
says we should do but which seem to us wrong
acts, or acts that util says we should not do, but
which seem to us right acts.
Some Problems for (Act) Utilitarianism
1) Some say the theory is impractical
2) Would sometimes violate peoples’ rights
3) Would sometimes lead to unfairness
4) Gives weight to pleasures that are bad/immoral
5) Cannot account for special relationships between
people, e.g. family, friends …
6) Is too demanding, requires too much of people
Turn now to another form of
utilitarianism called Rule
(Note that in Reading 2 rule util is not
discussed until the end.)
Difference between act and rule utilitarianism
Act Utilitarianism
Rule Utilitarianism
Applies the principle of
utility to individual acts:
Applies the principle of
utility to rules:
Always try to do those
particular acts that will
produce as much
happiness as possible
First, determine what
rules would maximize
happiness in society,
and then follow those
How would they lead to different acts?
Consider the case of killing an innocent person
and using his organs to save many others.
– Act utils might require us to do this act.
– What about rule utilitarianism? Would we
maximize happiness in society if we had a
rule that permitted such acts? The answer is
clearly no – everyone would be terrified.
What rules would maximize happiness?
We would have to include the familiar rules of
common sense morality:
– Don’t lie (except in extreme situations)
– Don’t steal …
– Don’t kill …
b/c without such rules there would be chaos,
and happiness would not be maximized.
How rule util avoids objections to act util
The ideal system of rules would …
Have to protect human rights.
Include a realistic rule for charity, e.g. give a small
part of your salary to the poor – so Rule Util is not
too demanding.
Not say ‘Try to maximize happiness in your
actions’, since people would make mistakes.
Possible Objection to Rule Utilitarianism
Some critics argue that rule utilitarianism
involves a kind of rule worship. i.e. not doing
an act just b/c there is a rule against it, even
though the act would produce more
happiness than anything else we could do.
Turn now to a second
Moral Theory:
Kantian Ethics
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Born, lived and died in
Konigsberg, Prussia
Strict protestant upbringing
Taught as a Privatdozent for
many years
Captivating lecturer, great
conversationalist, people
set their clocks by his walks
Major works: Critique of
Pure Reason, Groundwork
of the Metaphysics of
Contrast between Utilitarianism and Kant
Consequentialist – only the consequences of an
act are relevant to its being right or wrong
 No act is intrinsically right or wrong
Kant’s Ethics:
 Non-consequentialist – consequences are not
 Some acts are intrinsically wrong, e.g. lying,
breaking promises
The Categorical Imperative
Kant’s ethics involves a single basic moral
principle – the categorical imperative (CI)
Imperative – i.e. a command
Categorical – no exceptions
Kant gave different formulations of the CI
General Features of Kantian Ethics
Morality applies equally to everyone – e.g. if
lying is wrong for others, it’s wrong for me too.
Only acts done from a good will (good motive)
have moral worth.
Morality is intimately connected with rationality
– wrong acts involve a kind of contradiction.
First Version of the Categorical Imperative
“Respect-for-Persons” Version:
“Always act in such a way that you treat
people, including yourself, as ends in
themselves and never merely as a means.”
Okay to treat people as a means, but not to
treat them merely as a means.
Difference between the way we treat
inanimate objects and the way we treat
Our nature as rational, autonomous agents
who have free will is what merits respect.
Advantages of this version of the CI
1) Simple, plausible moral principle
2) Provides a foundation for autonomy and
human rights
3) It is correct as far as it goes – it is in
general wrong to use people merely as a
Weaknesses of this Version of the CI
1) Somewhat vague – not too clear what
counts as treating someone merely as a
2) Does not account for all right and wrong
(What about the treatment of animals, for
Second version of the CI:
The Universalizability Version
“Always act in such a way that the maxim of
your act could be a universal law.”
A maxim – is a rule of action that tells you do a
certain act
Universal law – a law or rule that everyone
must follow
Restated in my words
“Always act in such a way that the maxim of
your act could be a universal law.”
In other words:
Whenever you do something, make sure that
it would at least be possible for everybody
else to act in the same way, to do the same
type of act you’re doing.
Why does Kant insist upon this requirement?
His thought is that universality is a fundamental
feature of the moral outlook – that morality is
objective, impartial, and treats everyone in
the same way.
So, if it’s wrong for you to do something, e.g.
break a promise, it must also be wrong for me
to do it.
Act – making a false promise (one you don’t intend
to keep)
Maxim of the act – If you need money, and you can
get it by making a false promise, then make the
false promise.
Universalizing – What would happen if everyone
followed this same maxim?
Kant’s Universalizability Test of Right Action
1) Identify the maxim (rule) of your act.
2) Suppose everyone follows the same maxim (rule).
3) Consider what the result of (2) would be.
– if the result is a contradiction, the act is wrong
– if no contradiction results, then the act is
What if everyone broke their promises?
The institution of promising would collapse, it would
cease to exist, and it would be impossible for
anyone to make promises.
This result contradicts my goal in doing the original
act, namely, trying to get money by making a false
promise. I cannot pursue this goal if the institution
of promising does not exist.
In other words, “Break your promises” is an
impossible rule.
The contradiction:
Left side conflicts with right side
Outcome of the act
o Institution of
promising collapses,
ceases to exist.
o So, impossible even
to make a promise.
My goal in doing the act
My goal is to get money by
making a false promise.
But I cannot achieve this
goal if the institution of
promising does not exist.
B/c, without the
institution, I cannot even
make a promise.
What kind of contradiction?
The contradiction Kant has in mind is between the
consequences of everyone’s doing the act and the
goals you have in doing the original act of making a
false promise.
(It’s actually not so much a contradiction as a conflict
between the two.)
i.e. suppose everyone follows the maxim
Universalize the maxim
The Institution of promising
would break down
Maxim of this act – to get
money, make a false promise So I cannot make a promise
Start here: with My Act of
This conflicts with my goal
making a false promise
in doing the Act
(Goal of my act – to get money
 Here is the
by making a false promise)
Other examples
Kant thought there were many other acts that are
similar in this respect: Stealing, cheating, lying,
killing, being rude ….
The very possibility of a person’s doing these acts
requires that most people, most of the time, don’t
act in these ways. This is what makes them wrong
acts – they can’t be universalized.
Connection btwn the two versions of the CI
The institution of promising depends on the fact
that most people go to the trouble of keeping
their promises (most of the time).
So, when I break my promises, I’m a freerider: I am
using the institution of promising (and so using
other people) merely as a means to my own
selfish goals.
Objections to version 2 of the CI
1) Version 2 of the CI is too rigid – it is not always
wrong to break a promise, tell a lie, etc. At some
point utility, overall happiness, trumps Kant’s
2) A Counter-example: Suppose I need peace and
quiet, and so I go skating on the Canal. What
would happen if everyone acted on this maxim?
The canal would be too crowded and I would get
no peace and quiet.
Turn Briefly to Some Other
Moral Theories:
Ross’s Ethics
The five principles approach
Rights-based ethics
W.D. Ross (1877-1971)
Scottish philosopher
Spent early childhood in
Taught at Oxford
Best known work: The
Right and the Good
Recent influence in
medical ethics
The Ethical Theory of W.D. Ross
In an important sense Ross rejects the whole idea of a
moral theory.
That is, he does not believe there is a single underlying
moral princple that explains all right and wrong. He
does not think there is any single property that all
right acts have in common, or that wrong acts have in
common, other than just being right and wrong.
This view is referred to as “moral pluralism”.
Prima facie moral principles
Doing the right thing involves following a set of
principles. These principles are not absolute,
but “prima facie”; that is, we should follow
each of the rules, unless there is a good reason
not to.
When the rules conflict, we try to decide,
intuitively, which should override the other.
Examples of Ross’s prima facie rules
Tell the truth
Keep your promises
Don’t harm others
Try to help others when you can
Promote justice and fairness
Correct wrongs done to people
Show gratitude to those who help you
Make good use of your talents
The Five Principles approach
Derives from Ross’s ethics; actually, just a
variation on Ross’s ethics.
Developed by philosophers Tom Beauchamp
and James Childress, and applied by them in
the context of medical ethics and bioethics.
Moral principles/values
The “Five Principles”
In other words
The five principles approach is saying that there are
five different variables that affect, or are relevant to,
the rightness or wrongness of an act:
How much utility results
How the act affects the autonomy of people
How much harm the act does
How much the cat helps people
The extent to which the act conforms to fairness
and justice.
Ross and the Five Principles Approach
Note the similarity between the five principles
approach and Ross’s ethics:
Both approaches reject the idea that there is a single,
underlying characteristic or property that all right
acts share (that makes them right) and a single
property that all wrong acts share (that makes them
Both are forms of pluralism in ethics.
Rights-based approaches to ethics
Every human being possesses certain fundamental
moral rights, often called natural, or human rights.
The existence of these rights is taken to be a basic,
self-evident fact that requires no justification:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
(Jefferson – American Declaration of Independence)
Examples of such rights
The right to life
 The right to free speech, freedom of religion,
and other liberties
 The right to a fair trial if accused of a crime
 The right to property
 The right to a minimum level of education
 The right to health care
 The right to privacy
 The right to self-determination
Given that everyone has these rights, people have
a moral obligation to act in ways that respect
In other words, these rights provide the basis for
the familiar rules of common sense morality, such
as, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t interfere with the
freedom of others, and so on.
Morality, therefore, can be seen to arise from
these basic rights.
More Discussion of Moral
Moral theories and moral principles
Moral theories – are put forward as a complete
description and explanation of right and wrong,
they are meant to hold always, and can never be
Moral principles – are less comprehensive than
moral theories; they are relevant considerations
in a broad range of situations, but might be
overridden by some other principle or value.
The Principle of Utility
Utilitarians say this is the only consideration that has
any relevance to right and wrong. But that seems a
little extreme.
On the moral principals approach, only the weaker
claim is made that the amount of happiness or
unhappiness produced by an act is one consideration
that is relevant to whether it is right or wrong.
The principal of utility is one moral principle among
Another moral principle is autonomy.
Autonomy concerns the extent to which a
person has control over his or her life and
Why is autonomy good, or valuable, or
important? Different answers have been
given to this question.
What’s so great about autonomy?
Instrumental value – the utilitarian perspective
– Each person better able to know, and control, her own
– People derive satisfaction from controlling their lives.
– Individuality leads to new ideas, knowledge, etc.,
which benefits humanity
Intrinsic value – the Kantian perspective
– The ability to act autonomously is good in itself,
autonomy is “what makes us unique/human”
– Those character traits that we regard as virtues
presuppose autonomy, example, courage,
generosity, loyalty, … morality itself
A Third View
Human Rights
Regardless of the value or importance of
autonomy, each person has the right to
control his or her own life.
Many conditions can reduce
autonomy/free will
External constraints
 Overpowering desires/addictions
 Overpowering emotions (fear, hate, revenge)
 Propaganda, brain washing
 Illness, injury
 Ignorance, lack of information
 Emotional dependence
 Extreme poverty
Beneficence and Non-Maleficence
Beneficence in the
Broad Sense – means both
helping and not harming
Narrow Sense – means
just helping, as opposed
to not harming, others
Difference between Beneficence
and Non-Maleficence
Egs of Beneficence
Egs of Nonmaleficence
-Giving to charity
-Saving a drowning
-Offering assistance
-Providing needed
medical treatment
-Helping a friend with an
emotional problem
-Not killing
-Not stealing
-Not assaulting
-Not lying
-Refusing to pursue a
medical treatment known
to be harmful
Justice is an important principle
in ethics in general, and it is
especially important in
business ethics.
In many contexts, the moral
assessment of institutions and
practices in business will hinge
on whether they are just or fair
to everyone.
Retributive justice – What punishment is appropriate
for wrongdoing?
Distributive justice – how benefits and burdens
should be distributed if the distribution is to be just
and fair to everyone concerned.
Our concern in business ethics is mainly with
distributive justice.
What is just or fair? Four answers
1) The desert theory – everyone should get what he or
she deserves.
2) Utilitarianism – things should be divided up in such a
way as to maximize happiness.
3) John Rawls’ Theory – things should be divided
equally unless inequalities make everyone better off.
4) Libertarianism – inequalities are okay as long as no
one’s rights are violated.
The Ethics of Advertising
Readings for this Topic
Reading 10: “15 Incredible Tricks Advertisers Use to
Make food Look Delicious”, online at:
Reading 11: Tom Beauchamp, “Manipulative
Advertising” online at:
https://www.jstor.org/stable/27799838 Accessed:
14-08-2019 19:40 UTC
Readings cont’d
Reading 12 (Optional): M. Phillips, “The
Inconclusive Case Against Manipulative
Advertising” posted on Brightspace
Reading 13 (online): Jeffrey Moriarty, “Business
Ethics”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
Section 5.3: Advertising, at:
Issues to address
1) What is manipulation?
2) What is manipulative advertising (MA)?
3) Is MA morally acceptable?
4) Should there be a total legal ban on MA?
5) What restrictions should be imposed on
What is Manipulation?
First, what is manipulation?
We have a good intuitive sense of what manipulation
is. We know it when we see it. We can tell when a
person is being manipulated.
But it is not so easy to articulate what it is.
Beauchamp, Reading 9, locates it somewhere in
between coercion and persuasion:
Rational Persuasion
Involves overt use of force.
For example, you might physically put the
person in jail.
Or, to ensure the person does X, you use the
threat of harm if the person follows any
course of action other than X, e.g. “Your
money or your life”.
Rational persuasion
Involves use of reason and evidence to persuade
someone that something is true, or that they should do
To get them to do X, you describe accurately the merits
of X, why this act is in their interest, or best promotes
their goals.
Persuasion doesn’t interfere with the person’s decisionmaking process, nor reduce their autonomy and
freedom in any way.
Unlike coercion, manipulation does not use overt
force to limit the options open to someone.
It also doesn’t use persuasion to identify the most
desirable course of action.
Manipulation attempts to control what a person
does by influencing the various psychological
processes or mechanisms involved in the act of
deciding what to do.
How does manipulation work?
Belief/Desire model of human action:
Types of interference in manipulation
Control information or knowledge that a person has
access to.
Control desires by inducing desires in the person, or
modifying existing desires in various ways.
Control emotions which clearly influence actions –
for example, fear or love – by playing on them,
inciting them, exploiting them …
Further characteristics of
Depends on non-rational methods – plays on
emotions, cognitive defects or weaknesses.
May be based on detailed, extensive research in
psychology about how to influence and control
human behavior.
People are largely unaware that they are being
manipulated, unlike coercion and persuasion.
Operates largely at a subconscious level.
Difficult to protect yourself from manipulation (b/c
you’re not aware of it).
Coercion is wrong
Coercion is typically wrong, immoral, except where the
one coerced is guilty of wrongdoing.
Everyone has the right to control their own lives and
actions. I don’t have the right to control you and you
don’t have the right to control me (as long as we’re
not interfering with others).
When you use force against someone you are
interfering with their freedom, autonomy and
independence. That’s what makes it wrong.
Rational persuasion is not wrong
Using rational persuasion to influence a person’s
actions is not wrong.
It does not interfere with the person’s autonomy and
independence in any way.
Rather, to the extent that people become better
informed about the options open to them through
rational persuasion, their autonomy and control over
their lives and actions are, if anything, increased.
Manipulation is also wrong
Manipulation is considered wrong for the same
reasons as coercion – it interferes with a person’s
control over their actions.
It undermines their autonomy and reduces their
freedom. To manipulate someone shows a lack of
respect for them as a rational, autonomous being.
Only in special cases would it acceptable, e.g. in
dealing with young children perhaps.
Turn to Manipulative
Informational advertising – tries to provide
accurate information so that people can make
rational decisions about whether to buy a product,
or which one to buy.
Manipulative Advertising – deliberately tries to
exploit the psychological weaknesses, flaws, or
cognitive defects of people so as to get them to buy
products for reasons unrelated to the actual merits
or properties of those products.
Some advertising today may be purely
informative, but it is hard to find it.
Almost all all advertising would seem to be at
least partly manipulative.
We will have to see whether it follows that MA
is also wrong, and whether it should be legally
Common advertising techniques
Promotions – reward, or bribe, people for buying the
product so they will become used to it
Endorsement – usually by a celebrity
Play on emotion – fear, guilt, insecurity …
Weasel words – Use of certain words like ‘may’, ‘could’,
‘might’ to avoid clear commitment
Sheer repetition – entrenches the product in the mind
of consumers
Association – link the product with something
favourable, e.g. Tim Horton’s and hockey
Patriotism – associate the product with the country
Bandwagon effect – persuade people that the
product is popular
Humour – to attract interest and create a favourable
association with product
Avante garde – buying the product makes you part of
an elite group
Flattery – complement the customer for buying the
Surrogate advertising – surreptitious advertising
Cognitive Biases and the
Irrational Mind
Manipulative advertising (MA) exploits facts about
how the human mind works which have been
discovered in psychology and other subjects.
Many people may feel that the tricks of MA won’t
work on them, but advertisers know better.
One type of phenomenon that is relevant here are
what are called cognitive biases. So it will be helpful to
explain in a little detail what these are.
We tend to assume that we are very rational and that
we are in full control of our actions.
We have certain goals we want to achieve, desires we
want to satisfy, and we can figure out the best means
to satisfy them.
In recent times research in psychology seems to have
shattered this self-image of rationality .
What are cognitive biases?
These are dispositions
or tendencies to
commit certain types of
cognitive mistake or
They involve many
different cognitive
functions, such as
belief, reasoning,
perception, memory…
Who discovered cognitive biases?
Daniel Khaneman (1934- )
Amos Tversky (1937-96)
A good source on cognitive biases
Here is a good source on cognitive biases (on
YouTube, only about 14 minutes in length):
Brief lecture on cognitive biases by Kevin
deLaplante from the website Criticalthinker.com,

The term ‘bias’ in this context is a little misleading
– they need not literally be biases, like being
biased for a relative or friend.
Cognitive biases tend to be simplified strategies or
rules for processing information and making
decisions – they are short cuts or rules of thumb.
Because they are overly simplistic, they often
result in errors and false belief.
The source of cognitive biases
Why do cognitive biases exist?
Why would nature create us in such a way
that there are fundamental defects built
into our reasoning and thinking processes?
Why would nature not have selected for
better thinkers and decision-makers?
The standard answer
In the distant past it was important that our ancestors
made decisions and formed beliefs, quickly. If they took
the time to make the best decision, they might be
killed by predators.
So nature selected for a set of decision-making
procedures which could be followed quickly. Despite
not being ideally rational, or optimal, they were good
enough; they led to true beliefs often enough to
contribute to our survival.
These procedures are the cognitive biases. They are
universal in humans b/c they are the outcome of the
process of evolution by natural selection.
The Framing Bias
This is the tendency to give different answers to the
same question or to do different things,
depending on how the question or action is
framed or presented.
Example – People react more positively to proposal
(a) than to (b) below:
a) There is a 1 in 5 chance that a project will
b) There is an 80% chance that a project will fail
Framing bias, cont’d
The reason for the difference is not that people
don’t know what a ‘1 in 5 chance’, or ‘80% chance’
You can screen subjects beforehand for this
knowledge and you still get the same result.
The difference in response to the two questions
seems to stem from a subconscious preference for
the more “positive sounding” wording.
Actor/Observer bias
An asymmetry between the way people explain their
own behavior and the behavior of others:
Their own behavior is seen as a response to the
situation they’re in (situational factors)
❖The behavior of others is explained by their
characteristics (dispositions)
Example – You explain your own failure to study by the
fact that you were too busy, and the other students’
failure by the fact that they’re lazy.
Anchoring bias
When we make judgments about things we tend to
use a standard or reference point for comparison.
The standard functions as an anchor for our
judgment or estimate of something else.
But what the standard or point might be is often
rather arbitrary – it may be the standard most
readily available in the situation, or the first thing
suggested to us.
Weird examples of anchoring
In this example the subjects are going to be asked
to estimate Ghandi’s age when he died.
But before asking this, the subjects are divided into
two groups. One group is asked whether Ghandi
died before or after age 9, the other group is asked
whether he died before or after age 140.
Research shows that in this situation the first group
tends to give a lower estimate for Ghandi’s age at
his death.
Another example
People are asked first to spin a wheel which then
randomly stops at a certain number from 1-100.
Then they are asked to estimate something (which
they are not likely to have independent info about),
example, the population of Indonesia, the number
of Canadians who have diabetes …
On average, people give significantly higher
estimates for the thing in question when the wheel
stops on a higher number !! (The wheel seems to be
functioning as a kind of anchor for their estimate.)
Loss aversion
From a purely rational point of view losses and gains
(of money, for example) should have the same value
or utility.
But for people they don’t. Research shows that
people care more about losing something (of a
certain value) than they do about gaining something
(of the same value).
If you can get someone to try your product for a time,
there’s a good chance you’ve got them.
There are a large number of different
cognitive biases. Some sources list hundreds.
Their existence shows that we are not as
rational in forming beliefs and actions as we
commonly assume.
In some respects we are very irrational beings.
Cognitive biases can be exploited
Cognitive biases are especially important as they can
be used by advertisers, politicians and others to
influence and manipulate the public. There are entire
industries devoted to this.
There are many websites that describe how
marketing can use cognitive biases, for example: “67
Ways to Increase Conversion with Cognitive Biases”,
by Jeremy Smith, available at:
Cognitive biases make us vulnerable
One reason why MA might not bother many people is
b/c they assume they are not much affected by it,
that they can resist the influence of MA.
Cognitive biases show that, on the contrary, we
humans are highly vulnerable to MA, that we can
easily be manipulated and controlled.
Given the extent to which cognitive biases make us
vulnerable, isn’t it fair to describes MA as a form of
The Current Approach of
Society to Manipulative
The current approach to advertising
As everyone knows there is at present no general ban
on manipulative advertising.
The present policy is one of imposing ad hoc
restrictions and bans on certain types of ads that are
considered especially harmful, dangerous or abusive.
Some examples of such restrictions are given on the
next slide.
Existing restrictions on advertising
Ban on false advertising, on overtly false claims
Ban on subliminal advertising
Ban on ads in certain places, e.g. billboards on
Ban on ads for harmful substances – cigarettes,
alcohol, prescription drugs (especially in Canada)
Marketing limits on ads for junk foods
Various types of ad blocking devices (not a legal
ban) to deal with popups, telemarketing, etc.
Other restrictions that might be imposed
Ads targeting children
Ads for foods that are harmful, e.g. fast foods
Ban on air brushing in ads for cosmetic products,
especially to protect youth
More restrictions on Internet ads, e.g. pop up ads
Ban on disguised or surrogate ads
Restrictions on election advertising
Restrictions on ads that exploit superstitions, fears
Advertising that infringes on privacy – this is a
whole category (see over).
Dangerous trends in advertising
Tracking people’s web browsing and other online
Technology that will track your real world activity,
e.g. devices in your fridge to tell you what you’re out
of and then order it for you, and even placing adds
in your fridge.
Personalized adds for different types of people –
example, one type for wealthier folks, a different
type for poorer people.
So the main question we are concerned with
is whether there should be, over and above
these selective restrictions and bans, a
general legal ban on MA.
If we decide there should be no such legal
ban, we will consider whether the
advertising industry should impose
restrictions on itself.
Arguments that Manipulative
Advertising is Wrong and Should
Be Banned
(Cont’d in Advertising Part 2)
The Ethics of Advertising
Arguments that Manipulative
Advertising is Wrong and Should
Be Banned
Reasons for a general ban
1) A collection of utilitarian arguments – MA tends
not to maximize overall happiness in society
2) Arguments from the value of autonomy and
respect for persons as autonomous, rational
3) Direct harm arguments – MA causes harm for
those it manipulates
Utilitarian Arguments
Against MA
John Kenneth Galbraith
Born and grew up in
Economist, Prof at Harvard
Worked for four presidential
administrations – FDR,
Truman, JFK, and LBJ
Harsh critic of the consumer
Author of The Affluent
The utilitarian argument for capitalism
How does capitalism benefit society?
Answer: Adam Smith’s invisible hand argument:
o Society wants or needs certain products.
o Entrepreneurs have a motivation for producing
o Competition will weed out out the poorer products
and leave us with the best.
o Society benefits, even though everyone is pursuing
her/his own interest.
MA interferes with the invisible hand
The better products are supposed to be preserved
and the poorer ones to disappear.
But if MA is successful in getting people to buy
products, then the best products may not be the
ones that survive.
So the whole rationale for capitalism may be
undermined by MA.
Galbraith’s Critique of the Consumer Society
1) MA creates desires in us that we would not
otherwise have, e.g. desire for stylish clothing, for
an SUV, for a new phone …
2) Satisfying these “induced desires” does not result
in as much happiness as satisfying “natural”
desires. They are not things people actually need.
3) So, the consumer society, including MA, does not
maximize happiness.
Friedrich Hayek’s Criticism of Galbraith
Hayek accuses Galbraith of committing a
massive non sequitur, that is, an invalid
The origin of a desire has nothing to do with
how much pleasure we derive from satisfying it.
(Desires of high culture, e.g. the opera, are also
induced in us, but involve much pleasure.)
Who’s Right – Galbraith or Hayek?
Points for Galbraith
One might argue that the desires associated with
high culture are natural – they derive from our
aesthetic or intellectual nature.
The desires induced by advertising are likely to be
more transient, less basic, than natural desires, and
so would involve less pleasure.
The pleasure associated with a desire can be
affected by judgments about the value of what is
Where does the burden of proof lie? One might
argue that Galbraith does not need to prove that
induced desires involve less happiness, i.e. the
burden of proof is on the other side.
Second Utilitarian Argument against MA
1) If MA is successful, then it will get people to buy
products for reasons that have nothing to do with
the merits of the products themselves.
2) So MA will often get people to buy defective
products, which will lead to frustration and
3) So, MA will not maximize happiness.
Third utilitarian argument
“… advertising plays a major role in shaping and
sustaining the modern society of material
abundance…. accounts of this kind liken society to a
huge machine whose aim is the conversion of natural
resources into consumer products. For the machine to
work properly, its human components must be
motivated to play their role in producing those
products. This can be accomplished by (1) implanting
in people an intense desire for consumer goods, and
(2) requiring them to do productive work to get the
money to buy those goods.” (Galbraith)
Third utilitarian argument – Cont’d
This utilitarian argument is directed against the
broader consumer society of which manipulative
advertising is an essential part.
The consumer society involves a shallow set of
materialistic values which emphasizes the acquisition
of material possessions people really don’t need.
These values don’t maximize happiness for many
reasons – they waste resources, harm the
environment …
4th Utilitarian argument
The Nuisance argument:
We are constantly bombarded by advertisements
from every direction.
Advertising has all the defects of clutter, it intrudes
on us in physical space, cyber space. It is a huge
Why should we have to put up with this?
The Autonomy Argument
Advertising involves the deliberate attempt to
deceive and manipulate people.
It tends to undermine people’s autonomy and leads
them to do things that are not in their interest.
Advertising is also largely used by rich and powerful
corporations to exploit poor(er) people.
Personal manipulation is wrong
Manipulation at the level of individuals, in one-onone interactions, is clearly wrong, as we noted
But MA is a clear case of manipulation.
So why would it not follow that MA is also morally
How could manipulation at the societal level be okay,
but not at a personal level?
Prisoner’s dilemma argument
Even many companies themselves might prefer not to
advertise, but feel they have to b/c their competitors
are doing it.
They are caught in a prisoner’s dilemma. No one
company can refrain from advertising, so they all
continue to do it.
A ban on MA might be good for all companies, b/c it
would help them escape from this dilemma.
The advertising-is-not-free argument
People often say advertising is free. But it’s not.
(“Nothing is free!”) – the cost of advertising is “folded”
into the cost of the products which the company doing
the advertising is selling.
So, not only are we manipulated by advertising, and not
only is it a nuisance, we also pay for it ourselves!
The whole industry of advertising is indirectly supported
by the public, including all the science and research
behind advertising.
Attempts to Defend
Manipulative Advertising
Reasons for not banning MA
MA is part of the right to free speech, and so should
be permitted.
It can provide useful or needed info about products.
Provides funding for all sorts of things people want,
such as TV shows, sporting events, charities …
Some (most?) advertising is harmless – it tries to get
people to buy one of several competing products, all
of which are reasonably effective anyway.
Not feasible or practical to ban MA b/c no precise
criteria to define what counts as “manipulative”.
Theodore Levitt
Professor at Harvard
Expert on, wrote widely
about, marketing
Long-time defender of
advertising and the
consumer society
Popularized the term
Theodore Levitt’s Defense of Advertising
A common attitude toward advertising is that it may be
in many respects bad for individuals and society, and
the consumer society exhibits many of the baser
traits of humans.
But we pretty much just have to put up with it as its
part of modern life and society.
Levitt rejected this view and embraced advertising in a
very positive way as a great achievement.
Viewed objectively, life is dull and boring. In the past
people resorted to song, dance and story telling to
make life bearable.
Today advertising and the consumer society help to
perform this function.
When people go shopping, they are not just looking for
functional products – they want to indulge their
fantasies of being beautiful, popular, sophisticated…
The quotations on the slides that follow
are from Theodore Levitt’s article,
“Advertising: “The Poetry of Becoming””,
in the Harvard Business Review, April
“It [advertising] informs, entertains, excites, and
alleviates. Yes, it intrudes, but it also adds variety
and changes the pace. How much back-to-back
drama, news, sports, commentary, and MTV can
anyone stand, or unrelieved printed text …”
“Actually, advertising is the least harmful form of
propaganda—precisely because it is so
conspicuously in the service of its source, the
“The 1896 Sears, Roebuck catalog was celebrated as
a wish book for the country folk who lived remote
from modernity’s alluring possibilities. Today the
rush of advertising images across the screens of our
eyes is a wish book of invitations to become what
we want to be. If the product pushed is a tool the
consumer can use to fill a need, fix a problem, stop
a headache, then the advertisement provides a
context, invites the user into a world where that
need is fulfilled. Advertising is the poetry of
becoming. ”
“In these permissive times, the practice of
advertising is remarkably restrained and harmless,
even dignified when compared with what appears
in the spaces between the ads on TV and in the
(He has a point here. Ads are often more
entertaining, clever, funny than the shows that
advertisers are paying for.)
Advertising as an art form
“Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th
– Marshall McLuhan
At its best, advertising certainly is an art form. Like
traditional forms of art, it involves expression, beauty,
elegance, and can make us see the world in a different
way. It is easy to see the visual content of good ads as
art. And it can often make us laugh.
The pop art movement of the 1950s and 60s certainly
saw the artistic characteristics of advertising.
Final Assessment of MA and
Proposals to Ban It
Arguments Against Making MA Illegal
1) A legal ban on MA is not practical or realistic
2) Would violate right to free speech.
3) Advertising performs vital functions by providing
revenue for newspapers, magazines, websites,
television, sports events, etc.
4) Slippery slope argument – manipulation in other
contexts would also have to banned, e.g. politics.
5) There is simply nothing wrong with MA.
The practical problem
Even if you’re not convinced by Levitt’s positive view
of advertising, the case for legally banning MA would
face a huge practical problem.
How do we distinguish MA from non-MA. There is no
sharp distinction between them, no way to label an
ad as manipulative. There is only a continuum – ads
are more less manipulative.
Drawing such a distinction for legal purposes would
be very difficult.
Restrictions on MA
A total ban on MA does not seem realistic, for the
reasons mentioned above.
But it’s not a question of banning all MA or none.
An alternative strategy would be to identify the
most harmful effects of MA and use selective
restrictions to control and minimize their effects.
Ethical Standards “in”
Even though there isn’t going to be any total ban on
MA, it might still be reasonable to hope that the
advertising industry would police itself and
minimize MA as part of a broader policy of social
So it is important to ask: what makes an
advertisement unethical?
The following reading is very relevant to this topic:
“Ethics and Advertising”, by Geoffrey Klempner, in
Ethics, Law and Society, Volume 2, Jennifer Gunning
and Soren Holm, Eds., Ashgate 2006
The article is available online at:
It is not difficult to give examples of unethical
For example, manipulative ads that target children,
ads that promote racism, sexism, ageism, etc.
But can we give a general characterization of
ethical versus unethical advertising? That seems
Socially responsible advertising
The best approach might be to say that advertising
should be socially conscious and responsible.
That is, advertisers should strive to promote socially
beneficial values and attitudes and avoid creating
ads that promote socially harmful values and
Reading: “Toy Wars”
This case is a good illustration of socially conscious
A company selling a toy military helicopter is
promoting it as “more macho” than competing toys,
and so wants the ads to highlight its military
Tom Daner, however, the head of the ad company,
was concerned about emphasizing violence,
especially in ads directed toward children.
So, he wanted the theme of the ads to be a rescue
mission. The toy company rejected this approach.
Values to promote
Be as truthful and honest as possible
Respect, promote tolerance for, different cultures
Peace, social cooperation
Promote racial, gender, equality
Justice and fairness
Autonomy, independence, freedom
Beneficence, not harming others
Generosity, kindness, and other virtues
Concern for the environment
Some things to avoid in ethical advertising
Lying about products, being unfair to competitors
Subliminal advertising (which is illegal anyway)
Exaggeration, hyperbole, puffery
Stereotyping, racism, discrimination
Ads that encourage abuse of animals
Unrealistic and harmful ideals/images, for
example, of beauty, of success
Targeting children – “kidvertising”
Promoting or glamorizing, violence, conflict, war
Surrogate advertising for banned ads
Welcome to to the course!
Please note that
A course description, along with a
comprehensive list of topics and readings has
been posted on Brightspace.
Also, these slides, as well as all lecture slides
for the course, will be posted on Brightspace
Reminder that this is an online course
This course will be conducted entirely online. There
will be no in-person classes.
All lectures will be available on video on
Brightspace, as well as all lecture slides and other
course materials.
All midterms and exams will also be conducted on,
or through, Brightspace.
More about these and other matters concerning the
mechanics of the course a bit later in this class.
In the first part today’s class
Ethics as a subject
Increasing importance of ethics
Ethics in business
Some of the main topics to be covered
Mechanics of the course – i.e. exams, papers,
readings, etc.
Readings for next class
Point of terminology
Distinguish between:
Morality – the phenomenon of right and wrong,
good and bad, as they occur in society
Ethics – the study of, or inquiry into, the
phenomenon of morality in subjects like
sociology, anthropology, law, philosophy …
How do you study morality?
This depends on the subject. For example,
Social anthropology aims to describe the moral norms,
rules, practices of different societies.
Psychology tries to explain cognitive aspects of
morality, e.g. conscience, guilt and other phenomena
associated with morality.
Evolutionary biology tries to account for the origin of
morality in our evolutionary history….
Ethics as a sub-field in philosophy
The study of morality in philosophy isn’t
primarily concerned with any of the things
mentioned above.
In philosophy the goal is more evaluative – not
merely to describe, but to assess, what behavior
should and what should not be permitted.
Another distinction
Descriptive ethics – tries to describe accurately the
moral beliefs or practices of a given society.
Normative ethics – seeks to evaluate moral beliefs and
practices as true or false, justified or unjustified,
correct or incorrect.
Philosophy is concerned mainly with normative ethics
Philosophy concerned with normative ethics
In philosophy merely describing people’s moral
beliefs and practices isn’t considered very interesting.
But questions about what actually is right or wrong,
good or bad, permissible or not permissible, are very
interesting (and sometimes very difficult) questions
to answer.
Compare ethics to science, mathematics, history
Science aims to understand the nature of the
physical world. Mathematics seeks to understand
mathematical reality, the nature of numbers ..
In a similar way, ethicists seek to understand moral
reality, the nature of right and wrong, good and
Examples of issues in normative ethics
What determines the difference between right and
wrong? (a very basic issue in ethics)
Does the rightness or wrongness of an act depend
only on its consequences?
Is lying always wrong? (not just, is it always
considered wrong?)
Should euthanasia be legalized under certain
Could it ever morally right to torture someone?
Are large inequalities in wealth and income morally
A third distinction
Theoretical ethics: Deals with the general nature of
morality – e.g., what determines whether an act is
right or wrong? (Theoretical ethics is very old.)
Applied (or Practical) ethics: Concerns what is right or
wrong in particular contexts or situations or
professions. (As a subject, applied ethics is more
Business ethics is a special case of applied ethics.
Fields/topics in applied ethics
Medical ethics
Business ethics
Ethics and Technology
Engineering ethics
Ethics of Sports
Ethics and law
Ethics in education
Research ethics
Workplace ethics
Animal rights/welfare
Environmental ethics
End of life issues
Beginning of life issues
Sexual morality
Genetic engineering
Social justice
Individual liberty
Torture, terrorism, war
A revolution in ethics?
The previous slide reveals that applied, or practical,
ethics today is a very large field or specialty within
This may, in part, reflect the fact that there is a sense
in which ethics is more important today than in the
past, that it has a larger, more visible, place in society
than in the past.
We might even go so far as to characterize this change
as revolutionary (except that it was gradual).
Has there been a revolution in ethics?
There are all sorts of things you could do 50 years ago
that would not be considered acceptable today.
Consider, for example, discrimination of various forms
– discrimination on the basis of race, or gender, or
disabilities, or age …
Moral standards regarding the rights of people to
various freedoms, to health car, to employment
insurance, to a job
Standards involving things like public safety
The Human Rights Movement
Emerged in mid-20th century
with the UDHR, followed by
other HR covenants
Response to the horrors of 20th
century wars/genocides
Derived from natural rights
philosophy in 17/18th centuries
Today HR are a very significant
force in world affairs
The point being made here isn’t that people today are
better than people 50 years ago. Of course, people
today often fail to behave ethically.
The point is that the ethical standards to which people
are expected to conform today – official, public morality
– are higher, more demanding, than in the past.
Norms against sexism, racism, and other forms of
discrimination are given much greater prominence and
importance today than in the past.
A revolution in business ethics?
Ethics has always had a place in business, since
business can’t really function without some restrictions
on what behavior is acceptable.
But ethics is much more important, more prominent in
the business world today than in the past.
To repeat, there are things one could do in business in
the past, both at the level of individuals and
corporations, that would not be acceptable today.
Business ethics as a field of research
For the above reasons business ethics (in the sense of
right and wrong in the context of business) is more
important today than in the past.
And for this reason, business ethics, as a field of study
and inquiry, is also more important today.
Today business ethics is a huge interdisciplinary field
with researchers from the business community, from
business professors, philosophers and other ethicists.
Business professionals and ethics
B/c of the prominent place ethics has in business today,
one cannot really be a complete business professional
without having some background in ethics.
You need to know what is permissible and what isn’t, and
you need to be able to analyze and evaluate, on your
own, what is morally acceptable in different situations.
This is all just a fact about the way business is today. The
existence of this course itself reflects this fact.
Examples of issues in business ethics
Is it ever permissible for a salesperson to lie?
Should manipulative advertising be banned?
What rights to privacy do employees have in the
Do corporations have any moral responsibility to
society other than simply obeying the law?
Is it morally wrong that CEOs earn hundreds of times
more than their employees?
Should billionaires be abolished?
Obligations of business toward the environment.
Business ethics aims to be “progressive”
A central goal of BE is to consider how the business
world can be improved from a moral point of view.
That is, how should institutions/practices in business be
modified or reformed so that society benefits and
people, both inside and outside business, are able to
live better, more fulfilling, more flourishing, lives?
This is the main, overarching, goal of business ethics.
And this is what is meant when it is said that business
ethics is “progressive”.
Progressive – cont’d
Of all the fields within applied ethics, business ethics is
one of those that has great potential to be progressive
in this sense.
This is because business is understood here in a broad
sense to include such things as the fundamental
structure of our economies, major economic
institutions, the nature of the workplace, among many
other things.
So understood, business has such a major affect on all
of our lives.
“But we don’t need a course to teach
us right from wrong.”
The above statement misunderstands the purpose of
this course. It isn’t moral instruction – You will not be
told what’s right and what’s wrong in business.
Rather, together we will investigate and explore a wide
range of issues in business ethics. Hopefully, this will
help you improve your ability to think about and
discuss ethical issues that arise in the context of
business in an intelligent, reasonable way.
“But isn’t morality merely subjective?”
You often hear people say that morality is purely
subjective, a matter of how people feel about things?”
But then, if there is no such thing as correct or incorrect
in ethics, then, how can there be anything to reason
and argue about in ethics?
I suggest that this type of subjectivism about ethics
arises, in part, at least, from the cognitive bias known
as the “availability bias”.
The Availability Error (Bias)
This is the mistake of giving more weight to evidence
because it happens to be available, or in some way
more pronounced or memorable or noteworthy,
rather than looking objectively at all of the relevant
Consider: Are more people injured each year byshark
attacks or toothpicks? Most people would probably
say shark attacks, but the answer is, of course,
“The hidden danger of the humble
By DR. AZKA AFZAL Feb 1, 2019, 5:26
“Before you bite into that
sandwich, take a closer look.
Toothpicks have been known to
injure thousands more people
every year than plane crashes or
shark attacks.”
ABC News:
How would the availability bias make ethics look more
subjective or relative, than it actually is?
Well, we notice the cases where people disagree about
whether an act is right or wrong, e.g. euthanasia or
abortion, much more than we notice cases where we
agree about whether something is right or wrong.
This is why people think there’s just no objective truth
or fact about whether something is right or wrong.
We can expand on this idea that there
is much agreement about the nature of
right and wrong by looking at what’s
called the “Morality Quiz”.
The Morality Quiz: by Singer and Hauser
Fill in space with‘obligatory,‘permissible’ or‘forbidden’
1) Should you switch the tracks of a runaway train so that
instead of killing 5 people it will kill only 1 _________
2) You can save the life of a child drowning in shallow
water but you’ll ruin your new shoes by doing so
3) Five people will die unless they get organs for a
transplant. One needs a heart, one a liver, … and so on.
The only way you can save their lives is to kill a healthy
person and use her organs to save the others. Should
you do it? __________
Most people say that A is permissible, B is obligatory,
and C is forbidden. A few people give different
answers for A and C.
An interesting thing about the results is that the
percentage of people who give the different answers
remains the same, no matter what their culture or
religion is.
And this is so even though people can’t explain why
their moral intuitions differ in cases A and C.
Turn now to the Mechanics
of the Course
Online Course
As mentioned before, this is an online course all course requirements can and must be
satisfiable distantly.
Lectures will be recorded so students can listen
to them at any time convenient for them.
All required readings and other course materials
will be available online.
Required Readings
There are many readings students will be asked to do
as the course goes along, but there is no required
text for this course that students must purchase.
All required readings will be available either on the
Web or they will be posted on Brightspace.
However, there is an online text in business ethics that
we will make extensive use of – see next slide
Online Text
Business Ethics, edited by Michael Matteson and Chris
Metivier (2020), online at:

Business Ethics

It might be convenient for you to put it on your
favorites so you have quick access to it.
It is referred to in the list of Topics and Readings
simply as “Business Ethics”.
Course Requirements
Two Midterms: Each will be worth 30% of the overall
Format: One week before the midterm a list of study
questions will be given to students. On the midterm
you will then be asked to answer a selection from
this list.
Final Exam (40%) – Scheduled during exam period.
Format for the final is the same as for the the
Main Goals of the Course
ï‚— Acquire a basic knowledge of moral theories and moral
ï‚— Develop the skills needed to think clearly and rationally
about moral issues in business.
ï‚— Develop greater sensitivity for ethical issues.
 Become more aware of one’s own biases in ethics.
ï‚— Appreciate how complex/difficult ethical issues can be.
ï‚— In general way, to become literate in business ethics.
Readings for next week
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Ethics”:
Read the two paragraph introduction at the top, and
then read Section 2 only, “Normative Ethics” (Virtue
Ethics, Duty theories, and Consequentialist Theories)
Optional Reading: Business Ethics, Module 2: “What is
Ethics?” (“Morality from Pain and Pleasure”, “Morality
from Rationality”, and Morality from “Character”)

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