Business Ethics for the 21st Century: Chapter 1 (pp. 24 - 28):


1. According to the author, what common assumption is shared by consequentialist and deontological views? What does he mean by a "principle-based understanding of morality"? What criticisms can be made of this perspective? [Is this criticism off the mark?]

2. What is meant by virtue ethics? Which ancient Greek philosopher was very influential in the area of virtue ethics?

Virtue, Aristotle, and Eudaimonia

3. According to Aristotle, what is the highest good for human beings? What is meant by eudaimonia?

4. Explain why or how each of the following falls short of the highest good: (1) pleasure (hedonism); (2) wealth; (3) honor. [What does this do to pleasure-seeking, profit-taking, and office-seeking? Discuss.]

5. Explain what Aristotle means by a self-sufficient good. [Distinguish ends which are also means from the highest end or eudaimonia.]

6. What is the proper function of a human being, as opposed to a plant or an animal? What distinguishes human beings from "lower" life forms? [What is meant by the capacity to reason?]

7. What does realization of human potential or "self-actualization" consist in? [According to Aristotle, we are by nature curious and social. Our curiosity is actualized by knowing things (understanding the universe), and our sociality is actualized by living as good citizens in society (we need other people to develop generosity, fairness, and the like).]

8. What does the author mean by fitting "our various purposes into a coherent scheme of living"? (P. 26)

9. What other things do human beings also need? List some of these.

10. What is a virtue? What is a moral virtue? [There are intellectual virtues as well.]

11. "Eudaimonia, Aristotle concludes, is an activity of the soul in conformity with moral virtue." (P. 26) What, according to the author, does this mean?

12. Are we morally virtuous "by nature"? Explain.

13. Explain Aristotle's theory of the golden mean or moderation in action or feeling. See Moral Virtues and the Mean.

14. Discuss this statement (p. 27): "Aristotle... claims that the way for people to become morally virtuous is precisely to train and refine their natural human responses and feelings in order to develop good moral chacater."

15. How does Aristotle's view differ from that of Kant? [Compare refinement of natural tendencies with doing what is right despite natural tendencies. What does each view reveal about the "trustworthiness" of human nature?]

Objections to Virtue Ethics

16. Is Aristotle's view of actualization of human potential a self-centered or "self-absorbed" notion? For Aristotle, would it be possible to develop moral virtues such as generosity, courage, and justice outside of human society?

17. Does Aristotle's approach give us too little guidance in particular situations? What are some advantages of principle-based ethics? How would Aristotle answer this objection? What is meant by practical wisdom or judgment? [This is an extremely difficult issue. Practical wisdom is an intellectual virtue. It is above moral virtues, yet below other intellectual virtues, such as theoretical wisdom.]

18. [Can mastery in any skill be easily taught by providing simple guidelines? Does following a recipe make one into a "master chef"?]

19. In what sense can Aristotle's account of moral virtues be linked to his own Athenian cultural context? Discuss some of these virtues in their "historical context."

20. How might modern proponents of "virtue ethics" modify Aristotle's notion of moral virtue? How might each virtue be somehow associated with shared activity in a common project? What does it mean to work together for a common purpose or end?

21. Can this modern version of virtue ethics be applied to business? What moral virtues are associated with business? Is it a matter of a "higher project" or a matter of "making profit"? [Can one develop one's highest human potential or capacities in the business environment?]

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