JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Business Ethics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2024

INSTRUCTOR: Steven Joseph Woodworth
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 1:30-3:20 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or Junior Standing. Co-requisite: EN 110
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course examines some of the most important ethical issues in business today, such as businesses’ responsibilities to workers, consumers, and investors, the pros and cons of “free markets,” the challenges posed by environmental damage and automation, the ideas of “social” responsibilities and “ethical” consumption, and the special dilemmas faced by multinational businesses. Issues will be studied through a selection of contemporary cases, issues, arguments, and approaches, along with much class discussion, with the aim of helping students to develop a familiarity with the issues and debates and their ability to discuss, reflect on, and defend their own ethical views.
The course is divided into the following parts:
--- Part I [week 1]: Introduction and what we are doing when we do business ethics.
--- Part II [weeks 2-3]: The justification of markets and business practices, and the relation between policy, business, and justice.
--- Part III [weeks 4-5]: Various topics in business ethics, including compensation, advertising, consumerism, meaningful work, workplace discrimination, globalization, sustainability, and corporate culture.
In this course you will:
--- gain proficiency in the tools and techniques of ethical theory, especially as applied to topics of business and the market;
--- deepen your understanding of what markets are and when they are ethically problematic;
--- come to recognize, articulate, and analyze ethical challenges facing business managers, employees, and consumers;
--- develop a solid grasp of the main existing frameworks for ethical decision-making within a managerial, business environment;
--- cogently express your thoughts pertaining to the course material orally and in written forms, in both individual and group contexts.

Course participationClasses will involve a mixture of lectures, seminar discussions, small group work, debates, and other activities. The emphasis will be on helping you to develop your own opinions and arguments and your ability to discuss them with others, as well as your understanding of the materials, issues, and relevant ethical concepts and arguments. Your active involvement in discussions and other class activities, based on adequate preparation outside class, is therefore essential.30
Reflection journalOne of my primary aims as a teacher is to help you develop your own voice as a thinker. To that end I'll ask you to keep a journal in which you reflect on the course material. I'll provide further guidance in class.30
Midterm examQuestions for the midterm exam will be distributed at the end of week two. The questions will cover material from the first three weeks of the course. You'll be provided a small selection of these questions from which you'll choose one at the exam.20
Final examQuestions for the final exam will be distributed at the end of week four. The questions will center on material from the final two weeks of the course. You'll be provided a small selection of these questions from which you'll choose one at the exam.20

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 course.
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.

Students are expected to come to class prepared for the day's material. It is highly recommended that Students attend all classes given that the material is comprehensive by nature. Attendance will be considered in your participation grade.

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 period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

The University’s attendance policy is described in the catalogue.  Persistent absence or tardiness usually precludes satisfactory performance in the course, and jeopardizes that part of the grade that is based on class presentation and participation.  Students are expected to arrive to class on time; students are responsible for all material covered by the syllabus and/or discussed in class, whether or not they are actually present in class.
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.


Here is a tentative schedule of the topics we'll cover this semester along with some clues as to what we'll be reading.

Week 1

--- Introduction to the course: what is business ethics and why study it?
--- Objectivity in ethics and some examples of corporate malfeasance
--- Managerial solutions, institutional solutions
--- Further perspectives on the role of the individual in business ethics

Representative readings:

Elaine Sternberg, "Ethical Misconduct and the Global Financial Crisis"
John R. Boatright, "Does Business Ethics Rest on a Mistake?"
Jeffery D. Smith, "Moral Markets and Moral Managers Revisited"
Joseph Heath "Business Ethics and Moral Motivation: A Criminological Perspective"
Edgar H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, selections

Week 2

--- The aim of the corporation
--- The aim of the corporation, continued
--- Stakeholder theory
--- Corporate social responsibility

Representative readings:
Milton Friedman, "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits"
Joseph Heath, "A Market Failures Approach to Business Ethics"
R. Edward Freeman, Sergiy D. Dmytriyev, and Robert A. Phillips, "Stakeholder Theory and the Resource-Based View of the Firm"
Archie B. Carroll, "The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility: Toward the Moral Management of Organizational Stakeholders"

Week 3

--- The moral limits of markets
--- Economic inequality in a just society
--- Egalitarianism

Representative readings:
Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets, selections
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, selections

Week 4

--- CEO Compensation
--- Advertising
--- Consumerism & paternalistic policy
--- Meaningful work

Representative readings:
Jeffrey Moriarty, "Do CEOs Get Paid Too Much?"
Vikram R. Bhargava and Manuel Velasquez, "Ethics of the Attention Economy: The Problem of Social Media Addiction"
Sarah Conly, "Paternalism, Food, and Personal Freedom"
Anca Gheaus and Lisa Herzog, "The Goods of Work (Other Than Money)!"

Week 5

--- Discrimination and harassment in the workplace
--- Global capitalism
--- Whistleblowing and employee loyalty

Representative readings:
Elizabeth Anderson, "Recent Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Review Essay"
Benjamin Powell and Matt Zwolinski, "The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment"
George G. Brenkert, "Whistle-Blowing, Moral Integrity, and Organizational Ethics"