How do Business ethics relate to law

how business ethics social responsibility and sustainability are interrelated and how important are business ethics today
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Dr.KiaraSimpson,United States,Researcher
Published Date:05-07-2017
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FUNDAMENTALS OF BUSINESS ETHICS A Developing Country Perspective Juan Elegido Department of Business Ethics, Lagos Business School, Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria. Email: jelegidopau.edu.ng To cite this book: Elegido, J.: 1996 Fundamentals of Business Ethics, Ibadan, Spectrum. ii J. M. Elegido To Dick Kramer with gratitude PREFACE The title of this book indicates that it is written from a developing country perspective. This choice of title does not seek to suggest that there is a Nigerian ethics, which would be basically different from, say, Portuguese ethics. Ethics is about human fulfilment - personally and in community - and the fundamental ways in which a male Portuguese farmer can reach fulfilment as a human being are not essentially different from those open to a female Nigerian manager. Because of this the ultimate and more general ethical principles which are discussed in chapter 3 of this book are relevant to all human beings. In this sense this book is squarely based on a universalist view of ethics. However, when one moves beyond ultimate principles and tries to ascertain whether acting in a certain way is likely to contribute to the fulfilment of the actor and the well-being of the other parties affected by his or her actions, it is essential to take into account all the features of the situation. At this level whether one is acting in a developed or a developing country may have great relevance. An example may make this issue clearer. Let us think of the common problem of civil servants and politicians who ask for special gratifications before performing some functions. Some very general principles such as "one should act fairly" and "one should seek to protect and promote the common good of the communities to which one belongs" have the same relevance to this problem in developed and developing societies. Even more specific principles are also universally relevant. Examples of such principles are those discussed in chapter 8.II of this book. However, before even such relatively specific principles can be applied one still has to consider in detail the consequences which are likely to follow from refusing or accepting a request for a certain questionable payment. At this level of analysis it is suggested that the answer could be very different depending on whether one is, say, a clearing agent in the port of Lagos or an investment banker in New York. This is not to say that clearing agents in Lagos are justified in surrendering to every attempt to extort money from them, or that there are no conceivable circumstances in which it would be ethical for an American investment banker to give in to extortion requests. The point is rather that the specific circumstances in which issues arise are relevant to the ethical assessment of the alternatives facing the actor, and that, generally speaking, there are many issues in which some ethically relevant circumstances tend to differ systematically between developed and developing countries. The fact that this book has been written from a developing country perspective means that, when considering such issues, an effort has been made to take into account the circumstances which typically obtain in developing countries. I make no attempt in the book to introduce different schools of business thought. The reader will find no reference to "utilitarianism," "deontologism," "natural law," "contractarianism" or "hermeneutics." My experience is that there is nothing better calculated to kill for good the interest in ethics of the average business executive than a discussion of "schools of thought." The focus of this book is not on schools but on issues: I have just tried to provide the best solutions I could find to the problems that business life throws at us, and in devising those solutions I have never been deterred from using any material that seemed useful by the fact that it proceeded from the "wrong" school. Still, I have tried to organise the book around a set of internally consistent principles and knowledgeable readers will have no difficulty identifying its intellectual pedigree. This is a book squarely located within the natural law tradition and anybody familiar with the work of Germain Grisez, John Finnis and Joseph Boyle, will realize the enormous intellectual debt I owe these philosophers. The primary audience of this book are business executives working in Third World countries, more especially those working in Nigeria. Being aware of the public I was addressing I have tried to do my best to keep the philosophical baggage light. I am afraid, however, that my best efforts in this regard were not enough, especially in the first three chapters, devoted to foundational issues. There is a point beyond which complex issues cannot be simplified without serious distortion. As a practical help to surmount this obstacle I have provided brief summaries at the end of each chapter. Anybody who finds the first three chapters heavy going can limit himself or herself to reading only their summaries. Participants in seminars in which I have used some of the material contained in this book have expressed surprise at the fact that no reference was made to religious arguments. This surprise is understandable. After all, a very large majority of managers in Nigeria are religious believers and participate actively in the activities of some religious body. Almost without exception, among the teachings of such religious bodies one finds material that is highly relevant to issues of business ethics. It is true that religious teachings can be highly relevant in the field of business ethics, especially from the point of view of providing an effective motivation to widen the horizons of business executives beyond the narrow confines of their immediate self-interest. In fact these issues are explored in the last chapter of this book. However, given the wide variety of religions that are represented in any sample of Nigerian managers, it is my experience that, in trying to identify norms of behaviour which can be accepted by all the members of a firm, one will be well advised, as a matter of prudence, to avoid appealing to standards of behaviour which can be accepted only on the basis of their being taught by a religious authority. This book has been written as a consequence of my experience in teaching business ethics in the Lagos Business School. My very special thanks go to the School and the participants in its executive development programmes for the opportunity I have had to interact regularly and discuss issues of business ethics with so many highly experienced executives. Thanks are also due to my colleagues in the Lagos Business School, especially to its Director General, Professor Albert J. Alos for his encouragement and help, and to Dr. Christopher Kolade and Dr. Pat Utomi for many illuminating conversations on questions of business ethics. Dr. D. Melé and his colleagues in the Department of Business Ethics of IESE were a constant source of stimulus and guidance. Among the alumni of the Lagos Business School I would like to thank especially Pascal Dozie, CEO of Diamond Bank, who once dreamt of an "oasis of sanity" in the midst of the Nigerian business scene, and Fola Adeola, CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank, who was the first person to ask me to organize an in-company seminar on business ethics for executives of the bank he leads. That pioneer experience eventually led to many similar seminars for other organizations. This book is dedicated to Dick Kramer, the former Country Managing Partner in Nigeria of Arthur Andersen & Co. In doing this I am trying to acknowledge his help and inspiration in my work on business ethics, his crucial contribution in launching the Lagos Business School and sustaining it during its early years, and the large debt that the Nigerian business community owes him for his untiring efforts in promoting an enabling business environment in the country. CONTENTS PART I - ETHICAL THEORY CHAPTER 1.- INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................... 6 I. WHAT IS ETHICS? .............................................................................................................. 6 II. WHY SHOULD I TRY TO ACT INTELLIGENTLY? ..................................................... 9 The Meaning of "Acting Intelligently" ........................................................................ 9 Reasons for Acting Intelligently .................................................................................. 10 III. WHY SHOULD I TAKE OTHER PEOPLE'S INTERESTS INTO ACCOUNT? ........ 14 The Prisoner's Dilemma ............................................................................................... 14 Repeated Interaction .................................................................................................... 15 A Step Towards Greater Realism ................................................................................ 16 The "Recoil Effect" of Selfish Decisions .................................................................... 17 a) Psychological Effects .................................................................................. 18 b) Effects on the Moral Character of the Agent ............................................. 19 Conclusions .................................................................................................................. 21 IV. ACTING ETHICALLY: THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE FIRM .................................... 22 Group Action and Personal Moral Responsibility ...................................................... 23 Ethical Standards and Business Effectiveness ............................................................ 25 V. SUMMARY ......................................................................................................................... 34 CHAPTER 2.- FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS FOR ETHICAL ANALYSIS ................................ 37 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 37 II. INTRINSIC VERSUS INSTRUMENTAL GOODS ........................................................ 37 III. UNDERSTANDING OF INTELLIGIBLE GOODS VERSUS SENSIBLE MOTIVATION ............................................................................................................ 41 IV. DIFFERENT TYPES OF WILLING ................................................................................ 42 V. TWO MAIN TYPES OF ETHICAL RULES .................................................................... 44 VI. SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................... 46 CHAPTER 3.- FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF BUSINESS MORALITY ............................. 49 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 49 II. PRINCIPLE OF SOLIDARITY ......................................................................................... 51 III. PRINCIPLE OF RATIONALITY ..................................................................................... 53 IV. PRINCIPLE OF FAIRNESS OR IMPARTIALITY ........................................................ 54 V. PRINCIPLE OF EFFICIENCY .......................................................................................... 57 VI. PRINCIPLE OF REFRAINING FROM INFLICTING DIRECTLY WILLED HARM TO A HUMAN BEING ................................................................................. 58 VII. PRINCIPLE OF ROLE RESPONSIBILITY .................................................................. 64 Special Responsibilities ............................................................................................... 64 The Need for a "Plan of Life" ...................................................................................... 65 The Special Responsibilities of Managers .................................................................. 68 Role-Responsibility and Diversity of Responsibilities ............................................... 70 VIII. PRINCIPLE OF ACCEPTANCE OF HARMFUL SIDE-EFFECTS .......................... 71 IX. PRINCIPLE OF CO-OPERATION IN IMMORALITY ................................................ 73 X. COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS ............................................................................................ 75 XI. CONCLUSIONS ................................................................................................................ 83 XII. SUMMARY ...................................................................................................................... 84 PART II - RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FIRM CHAPTER 4.- RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FIRM ........................................................................ 88 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 88 II. PROFESSOR FRIEDMAN'S POSITION .......................................................................... 89 III. CRITIQUE OF FRIEDMAN'S POSITION ...................................................................... 90 IV. THE LIMITS OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY .............................................................. 95 V. MEMBERSHIP OF THE FIRM ......................................................................................... 96 VI. PRIORITIES IN THE FIRM'S RESPONSIBILITIES .................................................... 102 VII. THE OVERARCHING GOAL OF AN ETHICAL BUSINESS FIRM ....................... 111 VIII. SUMMARY .................................................................................................................... 116 CHAPTER 5.- RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS CUSTOMERS .................................................. 119 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 119 II. PRODUCTS ........................................................................................................................ 122 The Products Themselves ........................................................................................... 122 Objectionable Product Features .................................................................................. 124 Planned Obsolescence................................................................................................. 124 III. SAFETY ............................................................................................................................ 126 IV. PRICES .............................................................................................................................. 131 V. INFORMATION ................................................................................................................ 136 Advertising and Truthfulness ..................................................................................... 138 Advertising and the manipulation of desires .............................................................. 145 Collateral effects of advertising on society ................................................................ 147 VI. STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ETHICAL COMPANIES ............................... 147 VII. SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................... 150 CHAPTER 6.- RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS EMPLOYEES .................................................. 153 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 153 II. STABILITY OF EMPLOYMENT ................................................................................... 155 III. FAIR COMPENSATION ................................................................................................. 159 Payment of a living wage ........................................................................................... 159 Non-discrimination ..................................................................................................... 161 Pay differentials .......................................................................................................... 162 IV. JOB DESIGN AND PARTICIPATION .......................................................................... 164 VI. SIGNIFICANT SERVICE TO CUSTOMERS ............................................................... 167 VII. PRIVACY ........................................................................................................................ 168 VIII. FAIR HEARING ............................................................................................................ 172 IX. PROTECTION FROM HARM ........................................................................................ 173 X. TRADE UNIONS ............................................................................................................... 176 XI. STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ETHICAL COMPANIES ............................... 178 XII. SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................... 179 CHAPTER 7.- RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS OTHER STAKEHOLDERS ............................ 181 I. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS SHAREHOLDERS ................................................... 181 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 181 Right of Ultimate Control ........................................................................................... 182 Right to Information ................................................................................................... 185 Right to Financial Returns .......................................................................................... 186 Responsibilities towards Shareholders in Relation to Mergers and LBOs ............... 189 Advantages of Ethical Behaviour Towards Shareholders ......................................... 191 II. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS CREDITORS ............................................................ 192 III. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS SUPPLIERS ............................................................ 195 IV. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS DISTRIBUTORS ................................................... 198 Responsible Use of Channel Power ........................................................................... 199 Refraining from Subverting the Ethical Standards of Distributors .................................................................................................................. 201 Disclosure .................................................................................................................... 201 Keeping to Agreements .............................................................................................. 202 Due Process ................................................................................................................. 202 Strategic Opportunities for Ethical Companies ......................................................... 202 VI. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS COMPETITORS: THE ETHICS OF COMPETITION ......................................................................................................... 203 Specific standards ....................................................................................................... 206 VII. SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................... 210 CHAPTER 8.- RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS SOCIETY - I ..................................................... 211 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 211 II. QUESTIONABLE PAYMENTS ....................................................................................... 213 Coming Down to Cases .............................................................................................. 215 The Paradigmatic Bribery Situation ........................................................................... 217 Payments Made in Order to Protect One's Just Entitlements .................................... 219 Co-Operation In the Immorality Of Others ................................................................ 221 A Final Point For Organizations................................................................................. 223 III. SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................... 223 CHAPTER 9.- RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS SOCIETY - II ................................................... 225 I. COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW ..................................................................................... 225 The Duty To Obey The Law ...................................................................................... 226 Unjust Laws................................................................................................................. 227 Determination Of the Injustice Of a Law ................................................................... 228 Obedience To Unjust Laws ........................................................................................ 229 Other Reasons Which May Excuse From Obeying a Law ....................................... 230 II. RESPONSIBILITIES IN RELATION TO THE ENVIRONMENT ............................... 231 The Fulfilment of Human Beings as Ultimate Standard of Assessment .................. 233 Cost-Benefit Analysis ................................................................................................. 235 Protection of the Environment and the Law .............................................................. 237 III. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS THE LOCAL COMMUNITY ............................... 240 IV. STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR ETHICAL COMPANIES ............................... 242 V. SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................ 244 CHAPTER 10.- INSTILLING ETHICAL STANDARDS IN ORGANIZATIONS ........................ 247 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 247 II. MEANS AVAILABLE TO TOP MANAGEMENT TO INFLUENCE A COMPANY'S ETHICAL CLIMATE........................................................................ 248 III. ETHICAL CODES ............................................................................................................ 258 IV. A FIRM'S DECISIONS SHAPE ITS CULTURE ........................................................... 264 V. SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................ 266 PART III - RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE INDIVIDUAL MANAGER CHAPTER 11.- FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF MANAGERS ......................................... 269 I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................... 269 II. FIDUCIARY RELATIONSHIPS ..................................................................................... 270 III. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST ........................................................................................... 271 Ethical Norms Applicable in Conflict of Interest Situations .................................... 276 IV. ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS .............................................................................................. 279 V. INSIDER TRADING ......................................................................................................... 281 Preliminary Clarifications ........................................................................................... 281 Wrongfulness of Insider Trading................................................................................ 282 VI. HONESTY ........................................................................................................................ 286 VII. CONFIDENTIALITY ..................................................................................................... 288 The Foundation of the Duty of Confidentiality ......................................................... 289 Limits of the Duty of Confidentiality ......................................................................... 291 Confidentiality in Relation to Know-How ................................................................. 292 VIII. SUMMARY .................................................................................................................... 295 CHAPTER 12.- OTHER ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE INDIVIDUAL MANAGER ............................................................................................................................. 299 I. THE DUTIES OF DILIGENCE, COMPETENCE AND CONTINUOUS LEARNING ................................................................................................................ 299 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 299 The Duty of Diligence ................................................................................................ 299 The Duty of Competence ............................................................................................ 300 The Duty of Continuous Learning ............................................................................. 302 Final Considerations ................................................................................................... 302 II. THE DUTY OF OBEDIENCE .......................................................................................... 303 III. THE DUTY OF LOYALTY ............................................................................................. 305 The Foundations of Professional Loyalty .................................................................. 305 The Limits of Professional Loyalty ............................................................................ 308 IV. SUMMARY ...................................................................................................................... 311 CHAPTER 13.- HARMONIZATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE FIRM AND OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES ............................................................................................... 313 I. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 313 II. WHISTLEBLOWING ........................................................................................................ 313 Whistleblowing and Loyalty ...................................................................................... 314 Other Considerations Weighing Against Whistleblowing ........................................ 316 Conditions for Legitimate Whistleblowing................................................................ 317 II. DUTIES TO THE FIRM AND DUTIES TO THE FAMILY .......................................... 320 IV. GENERAL PRINCIPLES ON HARMONIZATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES ......... 329 Limiting one's responsibilities .................................................................................... 329 Defining one's responsibilities with precision ........................................................... 330 Acting according to objective criteria ........................................................................ 330 V. SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................ 331 PART IV - BUSINESS ETHICS IN A WIDER PERSPECTIVE CHAPTER 14.- BUSINESS ETHICS IN A WIDER PERSPECTIVE ............................................. 335 BIBLIOGRAPHY 343 PART I GENERAL ETHICAL THEORY CHAPTER 1.- INTRODUCTION I. WHAT IS ETHICS? This is a book about Business Ethics. It will be helpful to begin by demarcating the special province of Ethics. All the areas of human knowledge can be classified into two large groups. Theoretical disciplines like Physics, Chemistry or Economic Analysis investigate what reality is like. Practical disciplines like Medicine, Military Strategy or Ethics seek to determine how human beings should act. Within practical disciplines we can make another great division. Technical disciplines seek to determine how one should act in order to attain a certain objective. Thus, for instance, assuming that one wants to cure a certain person, how to go about it is a technical question (Medicine deals with it); similarly, assuming that one wants to ensure the unconditional surrender of Japan at the least cost in American lives (as President Truman wanted to do at the end of World War II) it is a technical question whether dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities is the most effective way of attaining that end (Military Strategy deals with this question). Ethics, with its various branches, is the other major type of practical discipline. Ethics tries to help us decide how we should act not just in order to attain a given objective or objectives but, rather, all things considered. The focus of ethics is to determine how to behave in order to ensure that our life is flourishing, successful, worth living, fulfilling (throughout this book we will use these four expressions more or less interchangeably). Solomon has provided an excellent description of the aim of ethics: "Ethics is, first of all, the quest for, and the understanding of, the good life, living well, a life worth living. It is largely a matter of perspective: putting every activity and goal in its place, knowing what is worth doing and what is not worth doing, knowing what is worth wanting and having and knowing what is not worth wanting and having...It is also, within business itself, keeping in mind what is ultimately important and essential and what is not, what serves our overall career goals and what does not, what is part of business and what is forbidden to business, even when increased profit - the most obvious measure of 1 business success - is at stake. " This is a wider type of enquiry than that of technical disciplines for while the latter just concern themselves with the more effective means to attain specific ends (e.g. 1 SOLOMON (2) p. 9. 3 the best way to attain military victory), ethics also has to consider what ends are worth pursuing and under what conditions it is worth pursuing them. Thus, to continue with the previous examples, assuming that the most effective way of saving a patient is to amputate his leg (a medical doctor is the competent person to tell us this) one can still question whether, all things considered, saving somebody's life is worth the expenditure of so much effort, time and money, and whether the voluntary destruction of a human limb can be justified in order to save a life (most moralists would answer positively both questions). Similarly, assuming that dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities is the way of getting Japan to surrender unconditionally which will have the lowest cost in American lives (military men will tell us whether this is the case), one has yet to investigate whether, all things considered, seeking at all costs the unconditional surrender of one's military opponent is such a fine thing, and whether the killing of tens of thousands of non-combatants is justified by the objective of minimising the loss of American lives (on these two issues opinions are much more divided among moralists). We have said that ethics seeks to help us decide how we should act, but it is important to clarify the way in which it does this. As we will argue, sound ethical reflection can identify some actions, such as torturing people or blaspheming, that it is never right to perform. But Ethics cannot provide us with a set of rules such that by applying them we will be able to know exactly what to do (as opposed to what not to do) in all possible situations. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious one being that there are just too many factors that are relevant in each concrete situation. For instance, we could easily make a list of over five hundred factors which may conceivably be relevant in a way or another to a decision whether or not to drop now a bomb on a given target, and after completing it it would become apparent that we could easily prolong it indefinitely ("Just a minute I forgot something. Add, 'If all the pilots have a sudden attack of diarrhoea, abort the mission.' And also this one 'If three influential American newspapers, the British Prime Minister, and sixty senators suddenly oppose the idea vehemently, reconsider it'"). It is simply impossible to formulate a set of rules capable of coping with such complexity. This point is important because it follows from it that anybody who has bought this book with the hope that after reading it he or she will know exactly "how to act ethically" in all situations, is bound to be disappointed. One can teach general principles, train a person to consider the most common pitfalls, expose him or her to the main lessons that experience has taught our predecessors, and so on. But in the end there is just no way to avoid the need for the person faced with the problem to assess the situation as it presents itself here and now and act as the constellation of factors present at that point seem to demand. It will often happen that the presence of one factor, which perhaps is 4 never present in the more usual situations analyzed in the standard textbooks, makes all the difference in the world and renders inapplicable to one's case the usual "solution" recommended for more typical predicaments. We have stated that Ethics is the discipline that explores systematically the conditions conducive to a flourishing life. The next step is to try to identify these conditions. A good point to start is by looking at the way in which people use terms like "ethics" and "morality." At bottom what most people have in mind when they speak of acting ethically seems to be: a) acting intelligently (as opposed to being carried away by one's urges and emotions); and b) taking the interests of others into account (as opposed to acting in a 2 purely egoistic manner). Most ethical teachers of note are also agreed on these two points. That these principles are widely held is obvious. This is so much so that saying of somebody that she is selfish or unable to master her passions, only to add immediately that she is one of the best persons one knows would strike most people as pretty odd, somehow as if one were affirming that somebody whose height is four feet is very tall. Still, even though we are bringing up these principles at this point precisely because they both express what Ethics means in the view of many people and reflect the teachings of most prominent moral philosophers, we do not wish to defend them on the basis that they are widely held, or that at least many people pay lip service to them, but on the basis that they are true and sound, that is to say, that they provide a reliable guide to leading a flourishing life. Therefore we will now proceed to examine what can be said in their defence. II. WHY SHOULD I TRY TO ACT INTELLIGENTLY? Many leading thinkers in Ethics have argued that behaving in a morally upright manner is nothing else but being fully rational. A perfectly moral person would never allow the pull of emotion to cause him or her to act in a less than entirely reasonable manner. At this point a possible misunderstanding should be avoided. Behaving intelligently does not demand that one strive to kill all feelings and emotions. In order to ensure that our intelligence occupies the driving seat our emotions have to be controlled and disciplined, but they do not need to be uprooted. 2 There is a long tradition of identifying in this way an ethical perspective. See, for instance, GOODPASTER and FRANKENA p. 26. 5 Still, disciplining and controlling our emotions is often hard work. What is the point of endeavouring to act at all times in a fully rational manner? Is it worth the effort? The Meaning of "Acting Intelligently" Before answering these questions it will be necessary to clarify what is involved in acting intelligently. There are two levels in acting intelligently. The first is to consider carefully the means to use in order to attain most effectively our objectives. The person who acts without thinking, getting carried away by anger, enthusiasm or fear, is not likely to act intelligently in this sense. But there is a second, and higher, level of rationality. A person may deploy the most exquisitely crafted plan in pursuance of a foolish objective. Full rationality demands that we weigh intelligently not only the adequacy of the means but also the value of the ends. We may see more clearly the meaning of this second level of rationality by considering an example. Let us think of a young doctor who has performed brilliantly a difficult open-heart operation, thereby saving her patient's life. The good effects of that action can be classified in the following way. Aspects of Instrumental Goods Attained Positive Substantive Emotions and Human Feelings Fulfilment Aroused Promoted - The life of the - The doctor has earned money, which may be - She feels high: patient has been useful in future to preserve her and her children's flushed with saved. health, provide education, etc. success, - The doctor has - The doctor has increased her reputation, which competent, increased her will be useful to get more patients, etc. admired. knowledge This distinction between human fulfilment, instrumental goods, and feelings or emotions is basic for ethical analysis and will be explored in more detail in the second chapter of this book. At this point we will just assume in the reader an intuitive grasp of these concepts. Acting irrationally at the level of choosing one's objectives means being driven exclusively by the positive or negative urges and emotions aroused by performing an action or by contemplating it in one's imagination, while acting intelligently basically means guiding oneself by a consideration of the human fulfilment that immediately or mediately one can achieve or promote through one's action (and, of course, the human 6 harm one can prevent). We have contrasted the person who guides herself by a consideration of the human fulfilment she can promote with the person exclusively driven by feelings or emotions. What about the person who aims at attaining instrumental goods such as money or a good reputation? Is he or she acting intelligently? It depends. If such goods are pursued as means needed in order to promote human fulfilment, then the agent is actually pursuing that human fulfilment, though only in a mediate way, and therefore is acting rationally. If that is not the case and the actor is in reality moved by the high feelings associated to obtaining these instrumental goods then he or she is acting irrationally. 3 Reasons for Acting Intelligently We have clarified what we mean by acting intelligently: allowing our intelligence, rather than our feelings, emotions or passions, to play the ultimate directive role in choosing both our ultimate objectives and the means to attain them. We can now address our original question. Is acting intelligently worth the effort? This question is so basic that it is difficult to articulate clearly an answer to it. Still, some light can be thrown on it by examining briefly the main alternative option available. Assuming that a person were to consciously decide not to regulate his life with his intelligence, what other way of regulating his life would be open to him? He could assign the ruling role to his emotions. To gain some insight into the practical implications of this, consider the following example. A is a first year Law student. Today is January 1 and he has taken as his New Year resolution for the coming year to do at all times exactly what he feels like doing. Anybody with experience of what life is really like could tell our student friend that he is in for a very rough year indeed. If he only attends lectures and reads when he feels like doing so he is bound to fail most or even all his subjects. Most likely he will also lose all his friends if each time he feels irritated with them he acts exactly as he feels like acting and says what he feels like saying. His relations with his parents, brothers, sisters and other relations are similarly bound to hit the rocks. He is even unlikely to have a good time. Many things we really enjoy we would never do if we had to wait to start doing them until we felt like it. Usually we have to overcome feelings of lassitude and lethargy before we stir ourselves to go to a party, visit a friend or go to play a game of tennis. 3 On this issue see FINNIS (2) ch. II. 7 The fundamental point illustrated by this example is really very simple. Our intelligence is able to survey and understand the whole field of human possibilities and ways of reaching our own and other people's fulfilment. Our emotions, on the contrary, are aroused only by some aspects of reality. He who chooses to "follow emotion" is going to leave out of account many important data and is bound to make serious mistakes. There is a second main reason for giving to our intelligence the leading role in our lives. Briefly put, we can only achieve unity within ourselves by striving to educate our feelings and emotions in the ways suggested by reason. This is possible because our actions are habit-forming; the person who succeeds in controlling her anger today will feel less anger next time she is faced with a comparable situation. On the other hand, if we just follow our emotions we will not succeed in achieving an integration of the different aspects of our personality. This is because each emotion or feeling pulls in its own direction. Thus, for instance, a business manager can experience simultaneously feelings of anger towards his boss, fear at the possible retaliation of his boss if he fails to support her, professional and social ambition, compulsive desires for money, tiredness at the demands of the job, envy of some colleagues, shame of a shabby deal in which he has engaged, frustration at the lack of progress of his children, resentment towards his wife, etc. In the absence of a sustained effort to put this disparate collection of feelings under the control of reason, his personality will just become a battleground for competing impulses, most of which are bound to be frustrated. Furthermore, the lack of inner integration which is produced by acting on feelings not subordinated to reason is exacerbated by the fact that in the realm of emotion and feeling a constant "dose" of stimulus tends to provide a decreasing level of sensible gratification or reduction of tension: whether in eating, in lashing out in anger, or in any other action undertaken in response to sensible motivation, the law of decreasing returns always operates. To complete our consideration of this issue we will discuss briefly two examples which throw additional light on the reasons we have for avoiding acting exclusively on the basis of emotional urges or aversions. A is a twelve year old boy who was to travel to school for the term. He was due to leave home at 8.00 am. His mother intended to get up at 7.00 am, have breakfast with him and see him off. The night before she went to bed by 11.00 pm. When her alarm clock rang at 7.00 am she felt too lazy to get up and continued dozing in bed for an extra two hours. The boy fixed his own breakfast and was taken to the airport by the driver. He left feeling disappointed and hurt. This example illustrates in a simple manner the unreasonableness involved in acting only on the basis of feelings or emotions. In itself there is nothing wrong with resting in bed. But by acting exclusively on the basis of certain feelings (in this case of 8 laziness) the mother in the example loses the opportunity of achieving some real good: in this case strengthening her relationship with her son. A special case of the general attitude of acting exclusively on the basis of feelings or emotions is that of the person who concentrates exclusively on "having a good time." Some people, especially in the nineteenth century, tried to elaborate a consistent defence of the view that one's paramount objective in life should be to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Bentham was a prominent defender of this doctrine. He coined the famous phrase "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." In his mind "happiness" was simply a matter of maximizing the feelings of pleasure and minimizing those of pain. The identification of happiness with pleasure, as taught by Bentham, has been abandoned long ago by most moral philosophers, for it soon became evident that there are many good things one can pursue in this life which cannot be reduced to "pleasure." 4 Perhaps the clearest argument to show this is that of the "experience machine. " Let us imagine that there was a machine which, by stimulating the brain, could make a person feel that he was going through any desired pleasurable experience: the experience of eating a delicious dish, that of arguing brilliantly a case before the Supreme Court, that of having children and loving them, that of composing a great symphony, etc. Let us imagine further that once a person was plugged into the machine it became impossible to unplug him. Would one, if the choice were available, decide to spend all the rest of one's life attached to the machine, enjoying all types of pleasing sensations but absolutely and definitely cut off from reality? Reflecting on this fantastic choice helps us realise that we are not satisfied with a life which can offer us only feelings of pleasure. We want to really attain certain goods and really lead full and successful lives. We would not willingly settle for the mistaken feeling of having achieved success or attained some goods. But if this is the case, "having a good time" is not an adequate guide on how it makes sense to conduct our 5,6 lives. 4 NOZICK pp. 42-45 and FINNIS (2) ch. II.3 are useful discussions of the "experience machine." 5 For the avoidance of misunderstandings it may be well to add that there is nothing wrong in itself with having a good time. What is criticized in the text is the attitude of the person who sacrifices real fulfilment to having a good time. The argument is that a rational being can never consider such a bargain satisfactory. 6 For a more general critique of the conception of a successful life as that which maximizes "want- satisfaction" or "satisfaction of desires" (whatever may be the object of the wants or desires) see FINNIS (1) pp. 113-4 and RAZ ch. 12. 9 III. WHY SHOULD I TAKE OTHER PEOPLE'S INTERESTS INTO ACCOUNT? Put as bluntly as in the heading of this section, most people are not clear at all on what could be an adequate answer to that question. Is it really smart for me to take into consideration other people's interests? Would it not pay me better to look after number one and let the devil take the hindmost? Recently, researchers from several disciplines have been pursuing lines of inquiry which cast light on this question. We may find it profitable to review some of the conclusions they have reached as a way to organise our thoughts on this issue. The Prisoner's Dilemma Many people have heard of the so-called "prisoner's dilemma." There are different formulations of the problem. The following is the most simple. Two people who have committed a serious crime have been arrested by the police and are held incommunicado, in isolation from each other. In order to induce them to confess their crime their jailers offer them the following alternatives. If only one of them talks, that prisoner will go free while the other will be sentenced to ten years in jail. If both of them confess they will receive mitigated jail sentences of five years. If neither of them talks the two will be accused of a lesser crime, which the police has reliable evidence they have committed, and can expect to receive a one-year jail sentence each. It would be in the common interest of the two prisoners that none of them talk in order to ensure that they receive the comparatively light sentence of one year each. But when each prisoner thinks of his or her own self-interest it turns out that from that perspective the best option is to talk. The dilemma lies in that when the two prisoners behave in this way both of them end up receiving the heavier sentence of five years. How is it that from the point of view of individual self-interest it is better for each prisoner not to be loyal to his or her accomplice? If a prisoner talks and the partner does not, the first prisoner goes free, while if both the first prisoner and the partner confess, the first prisoner at least gets the sentence of five years instead of ten. Whatever the partner may do the first prisoner is better off talking. What is the relevance of this fanciful example to our understanding of the real world? Many analysts have insisted that the prisoner's dilemma provides a good metaphor for social interaction. Much as it is true that if all men were unselfish and agreed to co- operate in pursuit of their common good, a better life for all would result, the sober truth, in their view, is that the options that each individual faces are similar to those of the prisoners in our example and that it is always to an individual's advantage to disregard