Business Ethics for the 21st Century: Chapter 1 (pp. 12 - 18)


1. Explain the consequentialist position. [Can an act be separated from its consequences? What makes an act moral or immoral?]

2. Using CASE ONE and CASE TWO (p. 13), discuss what makes some consequences more or less important than others. Does consequentialism work to resolve these two dilemmas? Explain.

The Principle of Utility

3. Define the principle of utility, as attributed to Bentham and Mill. How does this differ from egoism?

4. What is meant by "the good" for Bentham and Mill? Why is their view considered a form of hedonism? [What is meant by social hedonism?]

5. How does Mill's view of pleasures differ from Bentham's view?

6. [See Mill's Utilitarianism.]

7. Can one be a consequentialist without being a hedonist? Explain. What is meant by "happiness"? [For example, can one aim at "well-being" or "functioning well" or some sort of personal or social order? Is there such a thing as "moral" well-being and "social" well-being?]

8. What is meant by preference utilitarianism? [Are these the same as "interests"? Is an act "morally right" if it satisfies the greatest number of interests of the greatest number of persons involved?]

9. How is one to calculate the "sum total" of positive and negative effects for everyone involved?

10. [See Bentham's Hedonic Calculus. Use Bentham's Hedonic Calculus to evaluate the Case Study, "Cooking the Books" (pp. 10 - 12 in the text).] [See Picture of Bentham's embalmed body on display in a glass case.]

11. [What are the limits of "foresight"? That is, how capable are we of anticipating or imagining long-term consequences?]

Utilitarianism and Cost/Benefit Analysis

12. What is meant by cost/benefit analysis? [When businesses use this term, what aims are they usually referring to? Pleasure? Happiness? Well-being? Profit?] Discuss the author's example of an artificial heart program. [Discuss research into drug treatments for rare illnesses.]

13. What are some of the advantages of the utilitarian position? [Discuss the problem of testing moral principles. Can they be verified or legitimated in the light of unchanging standards (religious command, natural law, and the like)? Or do we only have personal or collective experience of how things turn out (when we act in accordance with a particular principle) as our guide? Discuss.]

Objections to Utilitarianism

14. What are some objections to utilitarianism (according to the author)?

15. [Does the good or happiness or well-being of the many outweigh the good of the individual? What happens to individuals or minorities with the practice of the principle of utility?]

16. The author cites a scenario wherein a businessman determines it would be better to break a promise (of full-time work and benefits) to one employee than to allow his business to fail (thus impacting many part-time employees, as well as himself. Discuss this scenario.

17. How would the utilitarian respond to these objections? Are there negative consequences that result from breaking promises? Could these consequences be more important than the employer thinks?

18. What is the difference between rule utilitarianism [associated with Mill] and act utilitarianism [associated with Bentham]? [For the rule utilitarian, act utilitarianism or calculation of a specific act in a specific situation, kicks in only when there is no general rule available or when generally held rules are conflicting.]

19. How would the utilitarian deal with Debra's dilemma?

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