What is Ethics? What is Business Ethics? – Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

What is Ethics?  What is Business Ethics? – Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

[music] I’m Kirk Hanson, executive director
of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. This is one of a series of short videos on
the core ideas of ethics and business ethics. This is on what is ethics and what really
is business ethics. First of all, ethics, in general, is the study
of standards of behavior that promote human welfare and what is often called the good. The good, of course, can extend this concern
to animal welfare to the value of the physical environment in and of themselves, as well
as for how they serve human welfare. Business ethics is the study of those standards
of business behavior which do the same thing, which promote human welfare and the good,
but it is business behavior that is specifically the concern of business ethics. What is ethics, in general, about? Well, it’s about how we behave, the standards
by which we guide our behavior and determine what we do day-to-day in life. Ethics is also about relationships. It’s about how we treat one another, even
those we don’t know. So let’s talk about what ethics is not and
some of the common misconceptions about what it is. Ethics is not just about feelings or about
conscience. Conscience is helpful in ethics as one guide,
but conscience, in general, is not adequate, nor are our feelings of queasiness about certain
kinds of behavior. Ethics really goes beyond those to think in
intellectual and rational and practical terms about how our behavior affects others. It’s also not the same and not just about
religion. While religion brings us many insights about
how we ought to behave and what is virtuous, for example, religion often does not address
all of the complex questions that we need to get at when we think about ethics. And certainly, ethics is not just about following
the law, although we hope our laws reflect the ethical standards that we consider to
be important. The law often lags our standards of ethics,
or there may be areas in which it’s impossible to legislate or to create standards and laws
that address certain kinds of behavior. Ethics is certainly not about just following
what everybody else does. Some people would argue that it is simply
whatever is the common practice in a particular society or community. I think that’s a very inadequate definition
of what ethics is because ethics should be something which is more common and universal
and completely shared amongst those who deeply about these issues. And it’s certainly not about what we can do
technologically or scientifically. There are some things that we can maybe in
the area of Internet privacy or in the area of manipulation of cells that we ought not
to do for a variety of ethical reasons. So it’s not just about what can be done. Ethics can really be thought about at three
very different levels. Ethics can be thought about as how we act
as individuals. It can be about how our organizations act,
how they’re structured to act. And it can be about the broad system or society,
how we structure our society, how we structure the systems of taxation or the systems of
healthcare and the ethical implications of those. So ethics can be considered at any of those
three levels. Business ethics, similarly, can be thought
about at those three levels. It can be thought about how we act as individuals
in business, how we structure our business organizations and, therefore, the way those
organizations direct and guide and incent people to act. And it can be about how we structure our business
society, how we incorporate organizations to participate in commerce, the laws, and
regulations which bind business organizations. For more information about business ethics
and ethics in general, please go to our website. Thank you.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. @jan29pawan The video "What is Ethics" was created with the Accordent system. Thanks for your interest.

  2. @qwerasdf1223 Thanks for your feedback. There is really no easy answer to your question. The definitions Mr. Hanson offers come out of a tradition that stretches back to Aristotle. There is no single source for them.

  3. One can practice either "good" or "bad" ethics which challenges your statements. The definition of "ethics" according to the American Heritage Dictionary (Third Edition, 1992) is "The rules and standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession". With that said one can look throughout history for examples of "good" or "bad" ethics.

  4. Glad you found the video helpful. Take a look at the others in the business ethics playlist.

  5. Not sure how this challenges the statements in the video. If people violate rules and standards governing conduct, then that action is probably bad. Of course, you can see examples of good and bad throughout history.

  6. According to the video: "Ethics is the study of behavior which promote human welfare and the good". You state that "if people violate rules and standards governing conduct, then that action is probably bad", however if the rules and standards governing conduct are considered "good" by a particular entity or people but considered "bad" by another entity or people then ones ethics, not simply the action, can be considered good or bad not just "good".

  7. This is absolutely a "Deep Dive" but very simple definition and a great pool of knowledge. Thank you for this video.

  8. Hello, I was wondering if it is possible to see a compliant closed captioned version of this video. Could you please let me know?

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