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COURSE NAME: "Business Ethics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Paul Gaffney
EMAIL: plgaffney@johncabot.edu
HOURS: MTWTH 1:30-3:20 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing

This course considers some of the most important ethical issues in business today. Students will examine such issues as businesses’ responsibilities to shareholders, workers and consumers, the pros and cons of a "free market," the challenges raised by globalization and environmental destruction, the idea of  "ethical" consumption, and the particular dilemmas faced by Western businesses working in foreign countries. Issues will be studied through a selection of contemporary cases, arguments, and broader theories, along with much class discussion, with the aim of helping students develop a familiarity with the issues and the ability to discuss and defend their own opinions.

The course is divided into five units; each week covers one unit.

1.      The first unit provides an overview of modern business ethics.  We will examine various considerations that inform decision-making in a business context, particularly as they pertain to the social responsibilities of corporations. What responsibilities do the corporations have to their shareholders and how do these responsibilities compare to those toward local communities and other stakeholders? What makes a corporation good and/or moral? 

2.      The second unit concerns the quality of life for employees We will study the treatment workers receive in a corporate setting—the kind of employment security they enjoy, the conditions under which they are expected to perform their professional duties, and their right to safe and decent working conditions. What kind of value is diversity in the workplace, and is it a value that business should promote? We will also examine the moral responsibilities of employees both to the corporation and to the consumer, with a special consideration of the issue of whistle-blowing.

3.       The third unit is about the treatment of consumers, product quality, and financial information. We will examine the nature of advertising and the interesting and antagonistic relationship that exists between producers and consumers. What right do consumers have to receive quality products and how far can marketing go to entice consumers to buy their product? Also, what kind of ethical controls are appropriate in financial markets? We will consider how modern technology has changed the issue of privacy in the economic order. Producers have access to a tremendous about of information, which they use to reach consumers.    

4.      The fourth unit studies international business and environmental sustainability. We will discuss the impact of globalization on business ethics: Is there an absolute standard for determining right and wrong? How do we balance a respect for local customs with a need for objective standards? In a world of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, what do we owe one another in our new global age? We will also study corporation responsibility with respect to the environment and future generations.

5.      The fifth unit concerns the challenge of economic justice. We will consider the distribution of wealth and the impact of a free market on the lives of all concerned. Is the gap between rich and poor a legitimate moral concern? T what extent and for what reason should we regulate the market? According to what model of justice should the market operate?



·         Students will gain a basic understanding of the nature of the business enterprise and the systemic nature of capitalism, particularly in a corporate setting; we will examine its specific objectives and values, and the various criteria for determining success

·         Students will gain an appreciation of the basic ethical approaches, deriving especially from the virtue ethic, deontological, and utilitarian traditions; students will learn how these traditions inform our decision-making in the business world, how they might conflict, and how each

·         Students will critically examine various case studies depicting ethical crises and decision-making in the contemporary business world

·         Students will develop and defend principled positions in response to various issues in business ethics; students will present their work in both written and oral forms, and in both individual and team assignments  

·         Students will learn how economic, legal, and moral considerations shape the issues in business ethics


Class participationRegular attendance and contributions10%
Case study Term paper and presentation15%
First ExaminationMonday July 15, in class15%
Second ExaminationTake home assignment, due Monday July 2215%
Third ExaminationMonday July 29, in class15%
Fourth ExaminationTake home assignment, due Monday August 515%
Fifth ExaminationFriday August 9, in class15%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cour
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


WEEK I:    Monday, July 8-Thursday, July 11

Business Ethics and the Nature of the Corporation


·         Norman Bowie: “A Kantian Approach To Business Ethics”

·         Daniel Bell: “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism”

·         Albert Z. Carr: “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?”

·         Milton Friedman: “The Social Responsibility of Corporations Is To Increase Its Profits”

WEEK II: Monday, July 15-Thursday, July 18

Monday 7/15:                         First Examination (in class), first hour

Thursday 7/18:           Distribution of Second Examination (take-home)

Treatment of Employees, Diversity, and Discrimination


·         Tara J. Radin And Patricia H. Werhane: “Employment-at-Will, Employee Rights, and Future Directions for Employment”

·         Vaughana Macy Feary: “Sexual Harassment: Why the Corporate World Still Doesn’t ‘Get It’”

·         Joni Hersch: “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”

·         George Sher:  “Diversity”

·         Tom L. Beauchamp: “In Defense of Affirmative Action”

·         Robert A. Larmer: “Whistleblowing and Employee Loyalty”

WEEK III:          Monday, July 22-Thursday, July 25

Monday 7/22:                         Second Examination due at class time

Consumers, Marketing, and the Disclosure of Information


·         Peter Huber: “Liability”

·         Judith Jarvis Thompson: “Remarks on Causation and Liability”

·         Shelly Kagan: “Causation, Liability, and Internalism”

·         Robert L. Arrington: “Advertising And Behavior Control”

·         John Kenneth Galbraith: “The Dependence Effect”

·         Friedrich Hayek: “The Non Sequitur Of The Dependence Effect”

·         Brian J. Adams, Tod Perry and Colin Mahoney: “The Challenges of Detection and Enforcement of Insider Trading”

·         Tibor Machan: “What’s Right about Insider Trading?”

WEEK IV:          Monday, July 29-Thursday, August 1

Monday 7/29:                         Third Examination (in class), first hour

Thursday 8/1:                         Distribution of Fourth Examination (take-home)

International Business and the Environment


·         Richard T. DeGeorge: “International Business Ethics”

·         Thomas Donaldson: “Values In Tension: Ethics Away From Home”

·         Denis G. Arnold and Norman E. Bowie: “Sweatshops And Respect For Persons”

·         Ian Maitland: The Great Non-Debate Over International Sweatshops”

·         Mark Sagoff: “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or Why Political Questions are not all Economic”

·         William Baxter: “People or Penguins”

WEEK V:            Monday, August 5-Friday, August 9

Monday 8/5:               Fourth Examination due at class time

Friday 8/9:                  Fifth Examination (in class)

Social and Economic Justice 


·         Jeffrey Moriarty: “Do CEOs Get Paid Too Much?”

·         Jonathan Oberlander: “Between Liberal Aspirations and Market Forces”

·         John Rawls: “Justice as Fairness”

·         Robert Nozick: “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

·         Irving Kristol: “Capitalism, Socialism, and Nihilism”


·         In addition to the readings listed here, we will consider a case study in each class

·         All readings will be provided on the course website