Teaching Ethics

11 10 2010

Can ethics be taught? Yes it can, and yes it should.

 The whole purpose of education is to help individuals develop their judgement. Judgement is about making decisions among choices and ethics, at the basis level, is about making choices. Some of these choices are easier than others but few choices are easy. Most are complex.

 Teaching ethics then is about considering how to make a choice. Is one Aristotelian and a judge of a person’s inherent character or does one favour Locke evoking absolute, natural rights? Is one an egoist to maximize individual good, a hedonist, seeking to maximize general pleasure or a utilitarian who calculates the greatest happiness for the greatest number?

 Managers make decisions which affect many others in their own organisations and in many countries around the world. There is no simple basis on which these decisions are based nor is there one specific set of rules upon which everyone can agree. It is only through dialogue that business schools can help students think these issues though. A discussion of ethics will never make the seven sins disappear. What teaching ethics can do is to make as many people as possible make as thoughtful decisions as possible.