Old Man Business

Gordon L. Ziniewicz

Ethical Issues in Business and Society
Syllabus and Course Outline
Fall Semester, 2008

IDIS 302.101 (Monday, 5:30 - 8:00 PM)
Instructor:  Dr. Gordon L. Ziniewicz
Office: Academic Center, Suite 204

Office Hours:  By arrangement before or after class.
Office Phone: 410-837-5379
Website: http://www.americanphilosophy.com/bus_eth/index.html

"The wise is one thing, to be acquainted with true judgement, how all things are steered through all." (Heraclitus Fr. 230)

"Hence also it is no easy task to be good. For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any one can get angry -- that is easy -- or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics)

Course Description and Objectives:

In general, Ethics is both a “subject” and a thoughtful way of doing things.  Theoretical Ethics is that branch of Philosophy concerned with determining what is right (with regard to principles and actions) and what is good (what ends or ideals are worth pursuing and what values are worth holding).  Practical Ethics is the art or techne (know-how) of figuring out how to make things better rather than worse with regard to concrete or actual situations.  Business Ethics is a type of applied ethics.  As such, it is concerned with principles applied and actions taken in the workplace and the boardroom.  At the same time, since business practice is inseparable from the rest of human life, Business Ethics has to take account of the well-being of human society and the natural environment.

The purpose of this course will be to grasp ideals and principles as they have been spelled out in a variety of traditional ethical systems and to apply these conceptual structures and guidelines to major problems and dilemmas of doing business and living in society.  Special emphasis will be placed on tools for problem-solving and decision-making.  Some specific goals will be:

  • To grasp important historical approaches to ethics.
  • To examine assumptions, goals, principles, and actions as they affect the workplace and society as a whole.
  • To gauge the impact of individual and corporate decisions on human life, society, and the environment.
  • To learn strategies or methods for making decisions.
  • To evaluate existing aims and ideals, as well as to project new ones.

Methods used in class will include brief lectures, class discussions, prepared scenarios, and group “role-playing.”  The format of the class will be flexible, in order to allow for changes required to meet the educational needs, standpoints, and experience of individual students.  Students will be encouraged to submit articles, cases, and situations from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet – as well as from their own experience.

Official Course Description:

"The course requires students to critically examine the major ethical issues current in the world of business and society as a whole. Emphasis is placed on students gaining a practical understanding of ethical theories and the application of these theories in ethical decision-making. A primary focus of the course is challenging students to analyze and resolve the kinds of moral problems and ethical dilemmas they may face in their own business, professional, or personal lives."


  • Business Ethics for the 21st Century, by David M. Adams and Edward W. Maine Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA. Selections to be read will appear in the course calendar or will be announced at least one class in advance. Occasionally, additional readings will be assigned.

  • Handouts (will be distributed and/or posted online -- see Course Outline for specific links).

  • Online Readings. You will be expected to access the Internet for some of the required readings, as well as helpful reading guides, question sheets, and chapter outlines.


Students will be required to write a major “reflection paper” or "thought paper" (as opposed to a “research paper” or “term paper”).  This reflection paper must be typed (at least five pages double-spaced -- 1250 words minimum).  Papers will be graded on the basis of (1) understanding of factual conditions, ethical aims, and principles relevant to the topic chosen and (2) ability to think about and propose solutions to specific ethical problems and situations.  Students will have the opportunity to choose from a list of topics or to choose a topic of their own (must be approved by the instructor). 

In addition, students will be expected to write short case studies, preliminary workups for a professional code of ethics, and brief responses to discussion topics or role-playing sessions.

Participation and Attendance

Participation is required.  Learning is a joint effort.  Ideas arise best in the give and take of conversation.  Active participation will greatly enhance one's grade.  Students will be expected to prepare for each class by reading and thinking about the topic assigned.  Students should be ready and eager to pose tough questions and offer informed insights.  Classes will include brief lectures, class discussions, prepared scenarios, and group “role-playing.”  Students will be expected to prepare “roles” and to evaluate outcomes in these role-playing sessions.  Successful participation presumes regular attendance and careful preparation for class.  Please let the instructor know if you will not be able to attend (call and leave message or email). Attendance will be taken almost daily, and participation will be graded. Participation includes preparation, attentiveness, asking questions, making comments, and -- in general -- trying to make the atmosphere in the classroom more conducive to learning. Prepare for class, and write up questions and comments in advance.


  • 1st Exam
-- 20%
  • 2nd Exam (Final)
-- 25%
  • Reflection Paper
-- 20%
  • Scenario Roles
-- 5%
  • Short Writing Assignments
-- 20%
  • Quizzes
-- 10%
  • Attendance/Participation -- -3 to +3 points

General Policies:

Please be on time for class. If you are late, you will probably be marked absent for that day, since attendance will be taken at the beginning of the class. You may also miss important announcements and/or assignments. The instructor will not repeat things over and over.

If you have to leave early (for an appointment), please let the instructor know in advance, and try to sit close to the door to avoid disturbing the class when you leave. Be kind to the instructor and your fellow students. 

Do not get up and leave the room while class is in session (with the exception noted above). If you do leave the classroom, you will not be readmitted.

No eating or drinking will be allowed in class. Have lunch before or after class, not while class is in session. Anything which distracts the class from the process of learning will be counted as a negative participation grade.

Be open to the views of others, and wait your turn to speak. If you are having difficulties with understanding what is going on, please see the instructor for help before the course gets away from you.


Don’t plagiarize or steal words from the writings of others.  Do your own work.  Plagiarism will result in a "0" grade for the entire affected writing assignment, and serious infractions will also be reported to the appropriate University of Baltimore authorities. If you use a text from an outside source (periodical, book, Internet, etc.), enclose that text with quotation marks and provide a proper bibliographical reference. If you do a "close paraphrase" (not a verbatim or word-for-word quote) of statements that are not your own, provide a proper reference for that as well.

Course Outline:  This outline is “extremely tentative.” Readings and topics will be revised added, dropped, or changed as needed.  Some issues will require more class time than anticipated. Be sure to go online and view updated versions of this outline at http://www.americanphilosophy.com/bus_eth/syll.html. Try to get in the habit of browsing the Business Ethics online pages, especially the "Online Resources" page which can be found at http://www.americanphilosophy.com/bus_eth/links.html. Supplemental readings from Internet sources will be assigned and added to this outline as the course gets underway.

Part One: The Foundations of Ethics and the Art of Making Decisions

Sept. 8: Introduction: Coming to Terms with Ethics. Business Ethics, Society, and the Environment. Freedom and Determinism. Aims and Values. Conditions and Consequences. Toward a Reality-Based Ethics (Current Topics). The Art of Decision-Making.

Sept. 15: The Art of Decision-Making (continued). Means and Ends. Imagination. Judgment. The Role of Scientific Method. Read: Reflection in the Situation, Diagram 1, Diagram 2, Analysis of the Situation. Case Study: "Holland Hardware and Wichita Supermarket." Discussion Questions.

Sept. 22:. Hedonism and Profit Motives: Number One and the Bottom Line: Business Ethics, pp. 1 - 12; Egoism, Cyrenaic Guidelines; Epicurean Guidelines (1- 21); Review Questions. Case Study: “Cooking the Books”: Business Ethics, pp. 10 – 12. Conditions and Consequences. Utilitarianism: Bentham and Mill: Business Ethics, pp. 12 - 18; Bentham's Hedonic Calculus; Mill's Utilitarianism; Review Questions.

Sept. 29: Deontology and Formalism: Kant: Business Ethics, pp. 18 - 24. Additional Readings: 1. Acts of Will (Example) and 2. Kant's Formalism.. Review Questions. Virtue Ethics and Self-Realization: Plato and Aristotle: Business Ethics, pp. 24 - 28; Additional Required Readings: Aristotle: Moral Virtues and the Mean.. Review Questions.

Oct. 6:. Virtue Ethics (concluded): Self-Realization Theory and Dewey's Pragmatism. Case Studies and Applications of Ethical Theories to Current Topics. Review and Overview.

Oct. 13: Test #1.

Part Two: Ethical Issues in Business and Society

Oct. 13: What Is a Corporation? Multinational Corporations and Ethical Relativism: Business Ethics, pp. 47 - 54. Outline. Read also: Relativism (handout).

Oct. 20: Downsizing and Layoffs: Employee Job Security: Business Ethics, p. 109 - 114. Outline. Outsourcing and Insourcing. Case Studies: Business Ethics, pp. 116 - 118, 162 - 165.

Oct. 27: Working Conditions and Employee Rights: Business Ethics, pp. 166 - 176. Outline.

Nov. 3: Discrimination and Affirmative Action: Business Ethics, pp. 224 - 231. Outline. Group Discussion: Affirmative Action and Its Consequences.

Nov. 10: Women in the Workplace: Business Ethics, pp. 284 - 290. Outline. Sexual Harassment. Issues of Women's Rights.

Nov. 17: Advertising and Marketing: Business Ethics, pp. 354 - 360. Outline. Presentation of Examples of False or Deceptive Advertising.

Nov. 24: Consumer Safety and Product Liability: Business Ethics, pp. 411 - 418. Outline. Case Studies.

Dec. 1: Business and the Environment: Business Ethics, pp. 456 - 461. Issues of Global Warming. Sustainability and "Buddhist Economics."

Dec. 8: The Moral Dimensions of Information Technology: Business Ethics, pp. 525 - 536. Outline.

Test #2 (Final Exam) -- as scheduled during exam week.

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Copyright © 1995 - 2012 Gordon L. Ziniewicz
This page last updated 10/14/12

Please note: These philosophical commentaries, though still in process, are the intellectual property of Gordon L. Ziniewicz. They may be downloaded and freely distributed in electronic form only, provided no alterations are made to the original text. One print copy may be made for personal use, but further reproduction and distribution of printed copies are prohibited without the permission of the author.