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Business Law Chapter 2 Homework I find it useful to define an ethical dilemma as one 

Page Count
5 pages
Word Count
1056 words
Book Title
Applied Business Ethics: A Skills-Based Approach 1st Edition
Authors
Dean Bredeson
MODULE 2: Utilitarianism vs. Deontological Ethics
Core Module Issues:
What is the principle of utility?
How are deontological models different from utilitarian models?
Which is more useful or sensible when reasoning through ethical
dilemmas?
Module Teaching Notes
This is the first of the put tools in the toolbox” modules. It is meant to introduce general models for
processing ethical dilemmas, which you can refer back to (if you wish) throughout the course.
The opening module was meant as a first-day-of-class, no-prior-study required exercise. This module starts
to present specific ways for handling ethical decisions.
I find it useful to define an ethical dilemma as one in which the law does not require or prohibit any particular
action. Ethics is the “fuzzy area” beyond law in which decisions may not always be clear-cut. Decisions
that are made to comply with the law are not questions of ethics.
Now, many would argue that there is much more to ethics than to define it as “not-law”, and I would agree.
But, especially as a starting point, a “not-law” centered definition is the best way to focus the students'
attention.
(If you like, by all means spend some time discussing the boundary between law and ethics. To me, it
seems ever shifting. Sometimes ethics drives law, and sometimes law drives ethics.)
Once you have defined ethical dilemmas, it is time to define the two basic models for navigating ethical
dilemmas that are presented in this module.
Utilitarian thinkers tend towards “the end justifies the means”. If the amount of “overall good” - whether the
good thing is happiness, opportunity, money, or anything else - is increased as much as possible, then an
ethical dilemma has been properly navigated. A choice that helps several people is better than a choice
that helps a few people in the same way, for example.
One can criticize this model by arguing that ethics can't be so mechanical or mathematical, and also by
arguing that it allows for “bad” or “harsh” decisions, so long as things turn out well.
I usually stop here (but not for too long) and ask the students to comment generally on their first impression
of the principle of utility.
An alternative way of thinking through ethical dilemmas is to follow a deontological model. Kant's ideas can
be summarized here, if you wish, although two of the following three modules will look exclusively at his
ideas.
To Kant (or any deontological thinker), the ends do not justify the means. A decision is ethically sound only
if it is made for “good” reasons in the first place. People may have different ideas about what those reasons
should be, but followers of this second model will praise decisions made for sound reasons even if they fail
to maximize “good” results.
Time permitting, I will again take a few student comments about their first impression of this idea.
And then, it is time to briefly summarize the two parts of the scenario in the textbook module and go through
the questions that accompany it.
1. Overall, is Ed's operation ethically justifiable as it is currently run? Why or why not?
A. IF “IT IS FINE” – WHY? ISN'T HE JUST TAKING ADVANTAGE OF
DESPERATE PEOPLE?
B. IF “NO” – WHY? WOULDN'T THE WANDERERS PERISH IF ED DID NOT
RUN THIS BUSINESS?
2. Everyone would presumably be in favor of a convenience store at Ed's location that charged
$5 for water and let customers use a phone and rest inside for free. Let's change the price points
for Ed's services. Following is a string of prices that increase each time by an order of
magnitude. Label each as “acceptable” or “excessive,” and be prepared to defend the point at
which you think Ed would be charging too much (or why you find his services fair at any price).
$50 - $500 - $5,000 - $50,000 - $500,000 - $5,000,000
A. LOW FIGURE. IS ED ENTITLED TO A PROFIT? WHAT IF HE NEEDS TO
CHARGE $5000 TO MAKE A PROFIT?
B. HIGH FIGURE. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DESPERATE NEED FOR A
QUICK CAR REPAIR, FOR SOMEONE STAY LATE AND HELP YOU FINISH
A PROJECT, ETC. WOULD IT BE RIGHT FOR THAT PERSON TO HAE
CHARGED YOU EVERY PENNY YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO PAY?
3. Should Alpha meet the first demand and reduce its prices across the board? Why or why not,
using the ideas raised in the introduction?
A. YES:
1. JUSTIFY WITH UTILITY? MORE CUSTOMERS? MORE
GOODWILL?
B. NO:
1. JUSTIFY WITH UTILITY? MORE PROFITS FOR SHAREHOLDERS?
4. Should Alpha meet the second demand and expand its free drug program?
A. YES:
1. JUSTIFY WITH UTILITY? MORE CUSTOMERS? MORE
GOODWILL?
B. NO:
1. JUSTIFY WITH UTILITY? MORE PROFITS FOR
SHAREHOLDERS?
5. Directly compare Alpha's practices to Ed's desert shack business in the first scenario. Are
they reasonably equivalent, or is one more ethically justifiable than the other?
1. WHY? BECAUSE PRICES ARE MORE REASONABLE?
BECAUSE MORE “REGULAR” BUSINESS?
1. DO YOU IDENTIFY MORE WITH UTILITARIANS OF
DEONTOLOGICAL THINKERS?

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