On the Disconnect Between Business and Professional Ethics

TitleOn the Disconnect Between Business and Professional Ethics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsTomhave, A, Vopat, M
JournalTeaching Ethics
Date PublishedSpring 2013
ISSN Number2154-0551
Keywordsbusiness , BUSINESS ethics , education , Pedagogical Materials
AbstractThis paper looks at the hypothetical question: Is there a distinction to be made between professional ethics and business ethics? This is a conceptual question, but one with pedagogical import. For the purposes of this paper, the authors adopt the admittedly controversial position that for an occupation to be a profession, it must be governed by moral rules, principles, privileges, and responsibilities that differ from our everyday morality. To act in a professional manner is thus to act according to a moral code that would be considered morally wrong if applied outside of a professional context. If a businessperson is a professional by this definition, then clearly an understanding of the complexities of navigating between a professional code of conduct and one’s everyday moral responsibilities is best examined by a course in professional ethics. On the other hand, if a businessperson is not a professional, then what requires emphasis is the way in which moral rules and principles ought to be applied within a business context. The authors therefore argue that businesspersons are not professionals in the technical sense presented above, and consequently business students are best served not by a course in professional ethics, but by a course in business ethics.
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