INTRODUCTION TO THE ETHICAL SYSTEMS.
 Why is it important to view ethical systems as
a set of rules for guiding decision-making?
Moral judgments are never made in a vacuum. Just as they
are made in concrete situations involving particular individuals, they
also involve a theoretical context within which they are formulated. Frequently
individuals who are making moral judgments or ethical decisions presume
that the context within which they are formulating the judgement or the
decision is identical, or similar, to the context within which everyone
else makes judgments. This is simply not the case. There is a variety of
contexts which can be used and the contextual system will give different
weight and moral value to the different judgments or decisions. Without
a context, moral decisions and ethical judgments would be without an organizational
basis from which to make and compare judgments.
The contexts for making decisions in ethics are called
ethical systems. These systems function very much like the rules in an
athletic competition. The systems (rules) of a game give significance and
meaning to the activities of the athletes. For example, a "home run" has
meaning only in the system of baseball. Outside this system it has no meaning
except as a metaphor which is ultimately grounded in the rules of baseball.
In contrast the term "field goal" has significance in several sports, e.g.,
football and basketball. The term "goal" is extended to hockey as well.
But the notion of field goal or goal has a different meaning and significance
in the various sports. The same term can be confusing unless one clarifies
the context in which it is used.
In ethics the term "good" covers a broad spectrum of judgments
and it can give rise to much ambiguity. Problems arise both in attempting
to define the term and in deciding what behaviors will lead one to the
"good." But there is another significant problem that must be faced, namely,
the way disputes in judgments about the good are resolved. Suppose there
is a disagreement about the practice of dumping toxic wastes. One individual
considers it to be morally repugnant and bases her claim on the natural
law context for determining the good. Another individual considers it to
be morally permissible and does so based upon a utilitarian framework.
There is no possibility for resolving this dispute unless one of the disputants
changes her moral system. Natural law and utilitarianism have decidedly
opposing ways of approaching moral conclusions. They do not share a common
ground which would allow those disagreeing to come to a conclusion, given
their assumptions, about what is needed to make moral judgments. If, however,
there is a disagreement about the moral permissibility of dumping toxic
wastes by two individuals who are coming from the same ethical framework,
e.g., utilitarianism, it is conceivable that they may come to a resolution
of their dispute. This would occur by reexamining the issues and reassessing
the utilities involved. Such a reconsideration does not guarantee a resolution;
it only opens the door to its possibility. The reason that the dispute
about the marketing of handguns has become so strident in our society is
that the sides are arguing from radically different ethical frameworks.
Of course, it is possible that individuals may agree on an ethical conclusion
but do so from different contexts. This does not present a problem . .
. this time.
 How can recognizing ethical systems assist in resolving
When disputes arise, as is inevitable in business practices,
it often becomes important to clarify the frameworks that lie behind the
positions that are being taken. The exercise is not always necessary. But
when conflicts resist resolution attention should be turned to identifying
the systems in which the judgments are formulated rather than continuing
a frustrating and unresolvable battle over which ethical judgment is correct.
This essay is not the place to debate about which ethical
system is the best to utilize in making moral judgments. It would be desirable
for all judgments to follow one system consistently. The fact is, however,
that some problems can be addressed by one system more comprehensively
than another. In reflecting upon the various ethical issues which arise
in business practices, it would be helpful, when possible, to examine them
from the perspective of the various systems. This exercise would provide
a richness of insight that might otherwise escape the practitioner. It
would also develop the skill of being sensitive to the way these systems
might underlie the ethical judgments of those with whom one might disagree
in the future.
What follows now will be a brief outline of the major ethical
systems that are often utilized in making judgments about ethical issues
that arise in healthcare practice. No attempt will be made to give a detailed
account of the systems or the many objections that have been raised about
each system. The details and objections are readily accessible in any ethics
book or an introduction to some business ethics texts. There will be some
attempt to compare the systems so that the reader can see their similarities
where they exist and their incompatibilities.
1. NATURAL LAW.
 What is the basic assumption of natural law ethics?
The system of natural law ethics was developed in the
fourth century B.C. in Greece by the school of philosophers known as the
Stoics. This school arose after the death of Aristotle in 322 B.C. The
Stoics, like all thinkers in the ancient Greek world, subscribed to the
belief that the physical world was an orderly arrangement of parts that
were governed by laws. These "natural" laws accounted for the regularity
that was revealed in the common sense observations of everyone. Thus, the
movement of the heavenly bodies could be both explained and predicted because
of these laws.
While the attention of astronomers was drawn to the movement
of the heavens, the Stoics focused on the moral life of human beings. They
considered human beings to be another set of objects in the physical world
with many similarities to other objects in the world. One of the characteristics
that set human beings apart, however, was their moral life. They reasoned,
as one might expect, that the moral life of humankind must be governed
by laws in much the same way as the universe was governed. The notion of
law, then, must apply to moral as well as physical phenomena since they
are both part of an integrated whole.
 How does the notion of universality fit into the context
of natural law ethics?
In their belief, the laws governing moral behavior must
be universal in much the same way that physical laws are universal. That
is, the laws must apply in the same way to all beings regardless of peculiar
circumstances. These laws are not just universal but they are absolute
as well. This means that they do not change over time regardless of the
time period in which human beings find themselves. In their origin they
are objective, that is, they arise from a source independent of human beings.
Personal or human whim cannot create, change, or negate a law.
The natural human order dictates what one ought to do. It
guides our actions in ways that will promote the agent's moral well-being
and the well-being of others. The natural law that the Stoics developed
is very general in character. This is not surprising since the whole notion
of natural law was in its infancy. Their formula for the natural law was
that "Good is to be done and evil is to be avoided." The application of
this law to particular human actions was, for them, a matter for further
 What is the naturalistic fallacy and how can it be
One of the interesting features of this system is that
it takes its clue on what should be done by observing what occurs in the
natural setting. They believed that one can derive what is to be done from
what actually occurs. This has come to be known in the twentieth century
as the naturalistic fallacy. Those who would identify this as a fallacy
claim that the fallacy committed by the Stoics lies in the fact that there
is no intrinsic value in nature. Value which drives any kind of obligation
results from human beings making decisions about what will help them accomplish
their goals. Thus, the natural world, at best, gives us clues about how
we should behave but cannot actually dictate our behaviors. We make those
decisions based upon the values to which we subscribe.
Natural law ethics, which is sometimes called "human nature
ethics," often surfaces in business ethics when dealing with matters of
worker exploitation. One of the important considerations in the achievement
of human goods is the ability of human beings to flourish, i.e., to fulfill
their potential. Natural law ethics would require that the circumstances
of the working situation must be such that men and women be treated in
such a way that their potentials are maximized or, at a minimum, not be
compromised. Endangering workers or trampling on their rights, then, would
be a violation of natural law.
 How does divine command ethics derive from natural
Natural law ethics was adopted by Christian moral thinking
in the third century A.D. It was considered to be a system that could give
moral guidance to the early Christians as a supplement to the moral teachings
of the Gospels. In subsequent centuries it took on a new cast which is
now characterized as divine command ethics. This approach to ethics is
a logical outgrowth of both the continuing belief in the order of the universe
and its authorship by a deity. According to this account the physical order
which we see is the order given by God. The moral order that we should
follow is also authored by God. To be moral one must conform to God's laws.
Human beings know what the laws are by determining God's will as manifested
in scripture and tradition and interpreted by the authoritative teachings
of God's representatives.
 How does the notion of conscience fit into the context
of divine command ethics?
Divine command ethics has the same characteristics of
absolute, universal, and objective laws which are found in its origins
in the natural law system. There is an important twist to this moral theory,
however. In medieval philosophy the notion of conscience emerged as a strong
moral force. Conscience is considered to be the subjective norm of morality
in contrast to the objectivity of natural law or divine command ethics.
Ordinarily conscience and God's law will coalesce. On occasion, however,
there may be a disparity between them. When this happens the obligation
of the moral agent is to inform her conscience as carefully as possible
about what God's law is considered to be as interpreted by those who have
legitimate authority to do so. If, after diligently trying to form her
conscience, the disparity persists, then the moral agent must follow her
 What is the principle of double effect and when may
it be used?
Another significant addition to this ethical system
that arose in medieval moral thinking was the foundations for the principle
of double effect. This principle accepts a fundamental assumption of post-Stoic
natural law ethics that holds that some actions are fundamentally evil.
The principle of double effect begins with the assertion that evil may
never be willed directly. However, it acknowledges that many actions may
have two effects, one good and the other evil. One can perform the action
provided the agent intends the good effect and merely tolerates
the evil. The agent cannot achieve the good effect through the instrumentality
of the evil effect. And there must be a sound reason for employing the
principle of double effect.
Natural law ethics and its religious counterpart, divine
command ethics, have a long history in the Western intellectual tradition.
It is not a museum piece, for it still has strong adherents today. Many
of the controversial positions in communities that have strong religious
ties or beliefs find partial formulation in these ethical systems. For
this reason anyone who would work in such communities will have to develop
some knowledge of and sensitivity to these long-standing ethical systems.
Like all ethical systems they uphold ethical ideals which one simply cannot
By the eighteenth century it became clear to many thinkers
in Western philosophy that an abstract system such as natural law or divine
command theory could not adequately provide a resolution for the many moral
conflicts which arise in human experience. The enlightenment attempted
to return to a basic understanding of human reasoning and what it can know
with confidence. Among those who were most influential in this enterprise
was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant developed an ethical system that is
called deontology. The name for this system is derived from the Greek word
 How does the notion of universality figure in the
system of deontology? In what way does the system allow for subjectivity?
As so often happens in the history of thought, Kant
began by adopting a number of the ethical commitments of his predecessors.
He believed that moral rules must be universally binding if there is to
be an adequate moral system to govern human actions. This belief arises
from his understanding that human beings all share a common nature. The
most significant part of these shared properties is the structure of the
human mind. Human beings, for Kant, all have the same structures or rules
according to which the mind operates. However, contrary to his predecessors,
Kant did not believe that the mind was a passive recipient of external
stimuli. The mind does not photograph the world. Rather, the mind actively
constructs its objects according to the rules of the mind out of the data
that is presented to it in experience. Because the rules of the mind are
common to all rational agents, knowledge can be true or false according
to whether the rules are properly applied in experience. But because the
structure of what we know arises from the mind rather than from
the external world, our knowledge is subjective. This revolutionary epistemological
shift has dramatic consequences for the moral system that he developed.
 What does Kant believe to be the foundation of the
moral worth of human actions?
Kant believed that moral worth in human actions derives
from the good will. This is present in all human beings and consists of
the fundamental orientation of the act of willing (in conformity with reason)
toward the achievement of the good through a sense of moral duty. The moral
law springs from the good will rather than being legislated by some source
outside of the moral agent. Actions have moral worth, then, when they are
performed out of a sense of duty to the moral law and a respect for that
 What is the categorical imperative and how does it
relate to the moral worth of actions?
Laws which carry moral worth are only those laws which
can be expressed as a categorical rather than as a hypothetical
imperative. The categorical imperative is a feature of the moral law which
carries with it universality. A categorical imperative is binding on all
individuals who find themselves in similar circumstances. Because it is
universally binding (grounded in our shared human nature) individuals cannot
claim exception to it for any reason. In contrast a hypothetical imperative
is one which is binding only if certain conditions are fulfilled. For example
a parent may say to a child "I will love you, if you are obedient to me."
Such a hypothetical imperative would imply that, if the child does not
obey the parent, the parental obligation to love the child ceases. Kant
is of the opinion that such flexibility in moral obligations does not provide
an adequate foundation for the moral life. Only the firm foundations of
universally binding moral laws will lay a secure basis for human morality.
The test for whether an individual action has moral worth is whether the
moral dictate according to which the agent is prepared to act is one which
can be universalized for all humankind. If it cannot be so universalized
then the action lacks moral worth even though the action may produce
 What does Kant consider to be inadequate grounds
for the moral worth of actions?
For Kant the issue of the moral worth of an action is
one that is highly significant. There are many reasons for performing actions
for the benefit of others. One can do something because (1) its consequences
are good for others, (2) the agent is inclined to perform such good actions,
or (3) divine law or civil authorities dictate the performance of certain
actions. Such reasons for acting may produce results which are in some
sense "good" but the actions do not fulfill Kant's strict requirements
for moral worth. None of these reasons will confer moral worth on
an action because they either are too capricious to provide a stable moral
foundation or because they originate outside of the moral agent. On Kant's
view, consequences flowing from the same action could be either good or
bad and such variation cannot carry the requirement of universality. The
agent could be inclined to behave in one way at a particular time and behave
in a very different way at another time. The capricious character of inclinations
renders them incapable of creating a firm foundation for morality. Laws
derived from external sources will not work because they do not derive
from the good will of the moral agent and because they can be changed depending
on the wishes of the law-givers. Thus, while actions resulting from these
various reasons may produce good results for some, they can never confer
moral worth on the actions. Only an origin which confers a universal characteristic
on an action can render the action morally worthy. This universal feature
is to be found only in moral agents themselves acting as members of a common
nature out of respect for the moral law that springs up from within them.
 How is the concept of autonomy grounded in the system
of Kantian deontology?
This strong emphasis on the derivation of morality from
its internal source in the moral agent lays the foundation for the concept
of autonomy that has become central to many areas of applied ethics. To
violate one's autonomy is not simply to disregard a particular preference.
Rather, it is to act out of contempt for the individual as a legislator
of the moral law itself. Conversely, to respect one's autonomy is not
merely to "go along" with someone's whim or even carefully considered decision.
It is to respect the fundamental moral agency of that individual who, in
formulating the moral law, does so not only for herself but for all humankind
as well. The major moral principle (categorical imperative) which Kant
formulates reflects this respect for autonomy: One must act so as to treat
every person as an end and never as a means only. To treat one only as
a means would treat that individual as a convenience for others and not
with the dignity required as a moral legislator.
Kant's deontological approach to ethics frequently underlies
many of the issues which are faced in business practices. Besides laying
the foundation for the notion of autonomy and its accompanying notion of
human dignity, it also provides the framework for truth-telling which has
profound ramifications for advertising and marketing techniques. The requirement
to tell the truth is one of the two examples which Kant gives for the categorical
imperative. An absolute duty to respect life, which has repercussion on
worker and consumer safety may also be traced in its secular history back
to the moral context which Kant designed.
 How can deontology serve as framework for acting
as a professional?
A case could also be made that the issue of the professionalism
of managers, executive, and employers in general makes most sense when
placed within a Kantian context. One does not act as a professional merely
because it leads to good consequences. Nor does one act in this way merely
because one is so inclined. And no one acts as a professional simply out
of obedience to a code of ethics formulated by a council of the profession.
One acts as a professional as a result of the dictates of the inner source
of moral authority which says that certain behaviors are the right thing
to do. A true professional is one who acts out of respect for that
authority and, thereby, legislates the moral code for all like professionals.
Criticism could be leveled at the ethical system of deontology
because, like its predecessor, natural law ethics, it is abstract and can
be easily manipulated by moral agents to achieve self-serving goals. It
may lead to endless reflection on the moral rules that are used to govern
human actions without leading to a definitive resolution. Thus, the outcome
could be similar to the result of natural law ethics, a moral uncertainty
and even moral paralysis generated by a variety of formulations and interpretations
of the moral law that claims to provide guidance to our human actions.
But in spite of the criticisms of Kantian moral theory it
reminds us that there is more to morality than merely pursuing individual
preferences. It points out the important role that reflection plays in
the moral life. Finally, it calls our attention to the fact that individual
moral decisions cannot be divorced from their impact on the moral lives
Modern utilitarianism was born in the eighteenth century
in England with the work of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). It reached its
most classical formulation in 1863 with the publication of Utilitarianism
by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). The roots of the modern version can be
traced back to the Epicurean school in the fourth century B.C. This philosophical
movement was a contemporary rival of the Stoics and was ultimately dominated
 Why was experience rather than universalism selected
as a cornerstone for utilitarianism?
Modern utilitarianism was born out of the inability
of universalist approaches to ethics to establish a system which would
provide a firm guidance for the moral life. As indicated earlier, the natural
law, divine command, and deontological approaches to ethics all held out
the promise of providing a system for giving moral guidance and resolving
moral conflicts. Unfortunately, they failed to accomplish their goal in
an uncontested way. These abstract approaches seemed to be doomed to failure
because they were replete with metaphysical assumptions that in turn led
to further debates.
Modern science seemed to hold out a different promise. With
its emphasis on empirical investigation and its testing of claims against
experience, it seemed to be the appropriate paradigm for establishing a
useful ethical system. Utilitarianism began by dropping the assumption
that there is a natural moral order that universally governs all of humankind.
 What is the relation between happiness and pleasure
in the utilitarian framework?
Utilitarianism disregarded any allegiance to a common
human nature for undergirding an ethical system other than the belief that
all human beings seek happiness. This happiness can be found in the various
pleasures that human beings seek. The pleasures that we seek are open to
 Are all pleasures equal in the utilitarian framework?
Unlike Jeremy Bentham who thought that all pleasures
had equal stature, Mill believed that there was a hierarchy of pleasures.
Some pleasures were considered to be more conducive to producing human
happiness than others. Pleasures that last longer are to be preferred over
those of shorter duration. Those that are more intense are preferable to
those which are weak. Those that affect the largest number of persons touched
by the action are generally to be preferred to those that affect a very
limited number. Sometimes the more remote pleasure is preferable to the
closest pleasure; sometimes just the opposite is the case.
Actions, then, are to be measured insofar as they produce
pleasure or pain. Those that produce the greatest balance of pleasure over
pain are to be performed because they are good actions. Those that produce
the greatest balance of pain over pleasure are to be avoided because they
are evil actions. This is often stated as the calculation of utilities,
i.e., the usefulness of an action to produce pleasurable outcomes leading
to an overall increase in happiness. It will be noted that, in utilitarianism,
the moral dictum of the Stoics is given content. Because actions can be
observed and pleasures "measured" there is an empirical component to utilitarian
ethics. Besides providing moral guidance this system claims to resolve
moral conflict by measuring and comparing the pleasures and the pains generated
by the action being considered.
 How does the weighing of benefits and burdens (benefits
and costs) fit into the utilitarian framework?
Proponents of utilitarianism are well aware that all
actions are a mixture of pleasures and pains. The pleasure of instant communication
by telephone is mixed with the pain of loss of privacy. The pleasure of
computer technology is coupled with the pain of higher demands on work
performance. This fundamental acceptance laid the foundation of contemporary
cost-benefit analysis. Costs and benefits are calculated and compared with
each other. Those actions or programs where the costs outweigh the benefits
are not to be carried out while those actions or programs where the opposite
is the case are performed. Thus, the ultimate utilitarian question is:
"What am I (are we) willing to endure in order to gain the advantages I
 What is the principle that guides utilitarian decision-making?
The principle which guides utilitarian decision-making
requires that one should act in such a way as to maximize the greatest
amount of pleasure for the greatest number of persons affected by the action
over the longest period of time. In order to exercise this principle relevant
empirical data must be considered and weighed within a hierarchy of values.
Because of the introduction of this hierarchical component utilitarianism
escapes from the simplicity of the naturalistic fallacy and reflects to
some degree the complexity of human experience and preferences. In addition
the pursuit of a particular value may itself be a driving force in achieving
happiness. The inclusion of a value component adds even further complexity
to any utilitarian calculation.
Utilitarianism is often represented as having two versions:
act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Although there are many subtleties
to these two approaches the basic component that unites them is the requirement
that pleasure be produced. Act utilitarianism requires that each action
should be examined against the pleasure-pain test while rule utilitarianism
requires that moral rules that claim to guide classes of actions should
be examined against the pleasure-pain test. Thus, those rules are to be
preferred which will lead to the greatest pleasure, all things considered.
Of all the ethical systems examined above, utilitarianism
is probably the most widely followed in business practices, particularly
those that involve a cost-benefit analysis. A good example of the use of
utilitarian ethics lies in the examination of business practices that have
an impact on the quality of the environment. The question of protecting
the environment, and at what cost, is the fundamental focus of the Environmental
While the many varieties and interpretations of utilitarian
ethics admits of a number of problems, one must be specifically noted.
The comparison of pleasures and pains is not an easy task because it often
involves the comparison of incommensurables. This problem arises where
the choice has to be made between two courses of actions that do not share
a common denominator. It is easy to compare the salary of one hourly worker
with another because in both instances one is dealing with dollar figures.
It is not so easy to compare the production of a commodity that has value
in a consumer-driven economy with the compromise that the production causes
to the environment. Hard choices in business ethics are not often between
two equally good outcomes but often between two incommensurables, sometimes
compounded by two undesirable outcomes.
 What does it mean to say that utilitarianism only
provides a method for resolving ethical conflicts rather than providing
solutions to conflicts?
In spite of its difficulties utilitarianism provides
a method for identifying the issues which must be considered when
ethical decisions must be made and conflicts resolved. Beyond identifying
issues it offers a process whereby decisions can be made. While
it does not provide a perfect guide for achieving satisfactory moral outcomes,
it, nonetheless, offers the possibility of some success in areas where
other systems continue to quarrel.
4. VIRTUE ETHICS.
 What is the emphasis of virtue ethics?
Virtue ethics has enjoyed a significant revival in the
past twenty-five years. Its original formulation was found in the ethical
works of Aristotle who died in 322 B.C. Aristotle's approach was to establish
an ethical system that was not based upon abstract rules to be followed
in human action. Instead, his focus was upon the character of the moral
agent and the habits which individuals develop in their behavior.
 How is virtuous behavior communicated?
On Aristotle's view the way to discover moral guidance
for one's actions was not to look for moral laws to dictate the behavior
which is to be chosen. Rather, one should look to the behaviors of virtuous
persons and emulate what they would do in a given set of circumstances.
Virtuous individuals have had the benefit of a lifetime of learning in
making moral decisions. They have reflected carefully on what is proper
and have developed a character that makes right decisions about actions
with considerable ease. They have been able to accomplish this goal through
 How does the notion of the mean fit into virtue ethics?
The virtuous person achieves the golden mean
in performing actions. This means that the excesses at either end of the
spectrum of actions are avoided. For example, virtue is not to be found
in being profligate with one's resources. Nor is it to be found in being
miserly. If there is a need to contribute to the welfare of others the
proper amount is to be found between these two extremes. And the mean will
vary from person to person because each person has different resources
available. Variation will also occur in different situations that call
for action. So the virtuous person, through practice and reflection will
know where the mean lies in a given set of actions. Learners, by observing
how this occurs, will then be able to develop virtue in their own character.
 What part do habits play in the expression of a virtuous
As a part of the character of the virtuous individual,
patterns of behaviors or habits will be established. The virtuous individual
will develop these habits over time and, as they develop, their practice
will become easier. Thus, the truly virtuous person will not have to struggle
to be honest in her transactions with others. Honesty will come with the
ease of a "second nature." But habits do not come automatically. Rather,
they are the result of dispositions and deliberations on the part
of individuals. Over time individuals decide how they will practice the
virtues and how they will achieve the mean in their actions. These habits
prompt agents to actions that will help them achieve the goods which they
consider to be proper to human life in general and their own lives in particular.
The life of virtue is indispensable for achieving the "good life."
Virtue ethics can be incorporated into other ethical systems.
Indeed, it found significant expression as a part of divine command ethics.
Within this context, however, it took the form of the pursuit of the "good
life" as theologically constructed in a particular historical framework.
The mean is to be achieved within the dictates of the divine will. This
approach to virtue ethics will work as long as there is a unified worldview
to which all individuals subscribe. The breakdown of this unified worldview
has caused some to suggest that virtue ethics is impossible.
 How does the notion of tolerance relate to the notion
of virtue ethics?
The revival of virtue ethics may have produced just
the opposite effect. It is necessary to realize that in a human community
there are a variety of ways of practicing the virtues. This was, after
all, Aristotle's initial insight in suggesting that the identification
of the mean will vary from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance.
As our society has become increasingly pluralistic and it becomes less
and less obvious that any single set of moral rules or expectations can
be shared across the population, the variations in the practice of the
virtues and the priorities which order them becomes more apparent. It has
become increasingly difficult to impose one's set of virtuous practices
on another and expect to achieve a good fit. For this reason, one workable
norm is that of tolerance. A wide variety of virtuous practices are tolerated
and, when conflict occurs, the parties attempting to interact will simply
have to negotiate their differences. We shall return to the matter of negotiation
in the last section of this essay.
 What is the strength of virtue ethics in the business
The collapse of a single worldview as an underlying
foundation for ethical systems can have profound effects on business practices.
It can temper excesses in the business area so that genuine human
interests can be promoted rather than relentlessly pursuing the goals of
profit and the growth of wealth at extensive costs to human well-being.
One of the main problems of virtue ethics is that it is a
very imprecise approach to developing a moral system. It does not have
clearly identifiable rules against which to compare specific practices.
On the other hand, there are those who would say that the rules formulated
by other ethical systems do not truly reflect the variability of human
experience and provide only arbitrary stipulations which are not effective
in actual application and practice
It may be the case that the imprecision of virtue
ethics is precisely its strength. It allows individuals to encounter each
other in particular circumstances and look for the peculiar qualities that
they bring to the human encounter. While other systems lend themselves
to combativeness and power struggles, this system may enrich the corporate
system by promoting dialogue and negotiation between the parties involved
thereby empowering all the parties in the decisions that need to be made
5. FEMINIST ETHICS
 What is the problem feminist ethics is attempting
Feminist ethics examines the traditional approaches
to ethics, particularly the ones outlined above and finds that they are
formulated in abstract terms which little acknowledgement of the particular
circumstances in a situation. The same can be said for the reliance on
ethical principles in decision-making. Proponents of this theory hold that
the abstractions and the tendency toward impartiality embodied in traditional
ethical systems and principle-based ethics are reflective of the masculine
propensity for abstract reasoning and pure rationality.
 What is the focus of feminist ethics in the business
Feminist ethics focuses upon the particularities in
a situation such as individualized needs, personal responses to problems,
and the dynamics of relationships. Feminist ethics takes the form of an
ethics of care. The aim of feminist ethics is to move away from abstract
assessments of situations such as an overemphasis on justice and move toward
the concrete realities of a situation and emphasize the needs of the individual
as embodied in his/her person. It is not unlike the notion of respect for
persons which is central to Kantian deontology but concretizes Kant's abstract
notion of person which is characterized by rationality and concretizes
it by placing persons in a context of needs, emotions, and relationships.
 How can business ethics be enriched by the approach
of feminist ethics?
Feminist ethics challenges producers and consumers, managers
and employees, and government and citizens to move
beyond seeing each other as objects to be manipulated only for the purpose
of self-interest. It can lead to a deeper recognition of the complexities
of human life and the central importance of personal dignity. It can lead
to a respect for each other and a sense of responsibility for the welfare
of each other. Finally, it can put the pursuit of profit and wealth in
perspective by realizing that they are only one dimension of the human
values that we need to pursue in our desire to flourish.