Morality and Business (PHIL 164)

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Instructor: Jonathan Tresan. This course meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 – 10:50 a.m. in Bingham 301.

“Business” encompasses a huge range of human activity, characteristically involving the creation of goods, the providing of services, commerce, and the exercise of institutional power fueled by the concentrations of wealth these activities often produce.  Morally speaking, we should worry about our proper attitude to these activities, and how these attitudes ought to manifest in public policy.  For instance, how should we understand and adjudicate between the demands of property rights, fairness, compassion, employee and consumer rights, environmental considerations, future generations, and social ideals such as diversity and racial and religious harmony?   Moral issues also arise in the course of business activity.  Often these are the same sorts of issues which arise at the level of public policy, but considered in a different context.   For instance, as citizens we want to know how to regulate business activities insofar as they involve such things as discrimination in hiring, pollution, hazardous workplaces, and misleading advertising.   But aside from public policy issues, as people who are involved in business – or who have relatives, friends, or neighbors who are involved in business – we want to know how businesses themselves should approach these matters.  For instance, how much profit they should be willing to sacrifice or risk to avoid or ameliorate them?  In this course we investigate moral issues which arise for business as an object of public policy, and for business as itself an arena in which morally weighty decisions are common.

Jonathan Tresan’s webpage