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Toward a holistical perception of the content of business ethics
Vojko Potocan and Matjaz Mulej
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to offer a new requisitely holistic definition of business ethics (BE) as a crucial component of business cybernetics and practice. The present contribution considers a basic problem: how humans use BE to influence their business processes. Therefore, business is/should be investigated from the viewpoint of ethics. Requisite holism of understanding and consideration of BE in business reality is unavoidable; it can (and must) result from findings and considerations of the interdependence between business practice, ethics, and BE. Design/methodology/approach – In this paper, qualitative analysis is applied on the basis of the cybernetics (e.g. especially business cybernetics), dialectical systems theory, and ethics theory. Findings – Ethics is a crucial emotional part of human attributes. They can be viewed as the subjective part of the starting points of any human acting/behavior process, including business. Thus, ethics (may) have/has a crucial role in business cybernetics and practice as BE. To clarify and beneficially use BE, one must understand relations between business cybernetics and BE, between business practice and BE, and understand the diversity of content of BE in literature, etc. On this base offered here is an understanding of BE, a definition of the content of BE as a specific type/part of ethics, and a view at source of BE content. Research limitations/implications – Content of BE. Research is limited to hypothesis and qualitative analysis in desk research. Practical experience is considered implicitly. Practical implications – This is a step toward development of business cybernetics with a requisitely holistic approach founded on requisite wholeness of insight. A more specifically created and target-oriented approach to cybernetic understanding and research of BE of business systems is encouraged. Originality/value – This paper presents a very new approach, rarely found in main-stream literature; a new perception and definition of content of BE. Keywords Ethics, Business ethics, Qualitative research Paper type Research paper

Toward a holistical perception 581

1. The selected problem and thesis Our work on business cybernetics (BC) (Potocan et al., 2005; Potocan, 2006; Potocan and Mulej, 2006, 2009, etc.) let us discover that researchers tend to divorce dealing with material resources from dealing with knowledge and from dealing with ethics, especially business ethics (BE). We will devote a later contribution to this synergy, because we feel the need to firstly discuss some dilemmas concerning the content of BE as a crucial component of BC. Clarification of these dilemmas might help us make a proper synergy possible and attain requisite holism (RH) (see Table I in Section 2) of working and behavior –, i.e. monitoring, perception, thinking, emotional and spiritual life, decision making, and action, of humans as business persons/business systems (BS). Our current research, based on cognitions from our previous contributions (Potocan et al., 2005; Potocan and Mulej, 2006, 2007, 2009), and cognitions from relevant literature (Vallee, 2003; Francois, 2004; etc.), have merged into our present thesis which reads: humans use BE to influence their business processes. Therefore, business is/should be investigated from the viewpoint of ethics, too.

Kybernetes Vol. 38 Nos 3/4, 2009 pp. 581-595 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0368-492X DOI 10.1108/03684920910944803

BE (Sections 2. see also later. RH/RW of understanding and consideration of BE in business reality can and must be based on findings and consideration of the content issues (Sections 6. Jackson. The choice between fictitious. 3 and 4). including Mulej. 1979. Francois. and . 2. The law of requisite holism Systems theory was established as a worldview and methodology of wholeness of insight. 1974. of dialectical system. 9/10. and what levels of complexity of understanding and consideration of BE are needed for humans to attain RH of behavior and to attain the RW of their insight (Sections 5 and 6). business practice. 1998. Francois. i. The real – total/absolute – holism of human acting/behavior and wholeness of insight is impossible. thus as an opposite way to the usual over-specialization (Bertalanffy. requisite. Therefore. 3.K 38. 1979. based on: Mulej. 2004. synergetic network. We are trying to attain RH/RW in consideration of BE as a component of BC here. Vallee. Most of the many current systems theories deal with other topics or use other viewpoints (Francois. humans act best with RH (Mulej and Kajzer.). 2004. 2003. which most specialists practice is rarely sufficient for humans to succeed rather than fail (Vallee. The latter requires RH of humans behavior and wholeness of their insight to avoid crucial mistakes. 7 and 8). single viewpoint and special totally all viewpoints and synergetic network. ethics. 1496-516 we published “Business cybernetics – a provocative suggestion” (Potocan et al. The increasing amount of humankind’s knowledge has outgrown the natural human capacity to act with a complete insight and has made narrow specialization unavoidable: narrow specialization is beneficial for insights. pp. Business cybernetics and business ethics In Kybernetes. 2007) (Table I). 1987. Vol. Let us first briefly clarify our approach. of all and profession causing oversights attributes of the feature/event/ only essential interdependent of attributes visible from other process as object under viewpoints/professions/ aspects) consideration and/or sciences/experiences) management/control) Table I. A general framework of content of BE may enable a more unified (and requisitely holistic) introduction and application of BE in business practice. 2004).). . 2003..e. and detrimental for oversights. Requisite holism (RH) (a Fictitious holism (inside a i. etc. 2005).e. etc. 34 Nos. Business practice provides for guidance on how broadly the RH/RW can/should be defined in any given real situation/case.3/4 582 RH of understanding and consideration of BE in business reality is unavoidable. We defined that BC is specializing in ˆ –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ! Total ¼ real holism (a system. it can (and must) result from requisite wholeness (RW) findings and considerations of the interdependence between: . and total holism – the level of holism for considering a selected topic . while holism and wholeness inside a single viewpoint.

and later on the preferential needs and corresponding possibilities. related procedures and organization.. they attend to. stakeholders. Foerster. Mulej seems to have pioneered in linking knowledge and VCEN in the area of systems and cybernetics consideration (Mulej. as their basis to select the perceived needs and possibilities.g. When criticizing the reduction of definition of objectives of human activities to “desired objectives”. 1979. including Mulej.. Education. Relation between business practice and business ethics In the modern general and business environment the possible and/or actual functioning – working/behavior – and results of organizations depend on how appropriately –. 1979. Wiener. including VCEN. Mulej introduced the notion of starting points and related interdependence-based process of interaction of (Mulej. market. 1956. Literature on ethics and BE abounds. knowledge of methods. or per profession and VCEN. Toward a holistical perception 583 . 1974. Foerster. 2004): . in market). and resulting outcomes of the process of human activity at stake. 4. Control is a topic of cybernetics from the latter’s very beginning of that field of study (Ashby. but less so about the link between VCEN and BC. further on of related tasks. i. training. Pioneers in application of systems theory and cybernetics to management/control did not tackle VCEN much or at all (more about that see in: Vallee. synergy of legal. Thus. BE is supposed to help business people manage/control their business lives by means of aspects reaching beyond knowledge into the right hemisphere of the human brain and heart. Francois. Beer. see also later. and . knowledge and material/outer resources. and norms (VCEN) as well (Potocan et al. Humans do not use only their sources (possibilities) and knowledge to control/master/manage. 2004. 2007. human attributes (“subjective starting points” consisting of knowledge of content.organizations and individuals as so-called BSs emphasizing the so-called business viewpoints rather than the natural and/or technical/technological viewpoints of consideration of features. made up of needs and possibilities. although BC reflects and supports human efforts to master their business issues. and natural environment requirements in the BE of their internal and external social and business environments (more about the link between VCEN and Cybernetics see: Ashby. 2004). 1979. hopefully as a dialectical system. and attain. 1987. 2007. in BC terms. especially. Potocan and Mulej. outer conditions (“objective starting points”. 2007).e. the synergy of definitions of the preferential needs and corresponding possibilities leads to definition of objectives. outcomes depend on VCEN crucially. This is the topic to be tackled here. 2009). etc. with RH/RW. 1956. Wiener. Mulej et al. and other forms of formation by information tackle VCEN for humans to use VCEN not only along. Mulej. 1979. 1956. Beer. but also in synergy with. Later on. 2006. 1987. but their values. 1956. Francois. events and processes comprised of real life. Subjective starting points cause humans to select their viewpoints (either per profession. or per synergy of profession and VCEN). 2005. This process takes places before objectives are defined to make them requisitely holistically grounded – rather than merely desired. Potocan. 2000. or per VCEN. Thus. knowledge management is not enough for success.). ethics. 2003. culture. e. and values/VCEN).

or offering a unified definiton of BE (Bowie. 2005. 2004. 1998. For example. for long enough periods of time to become codified. 2006. Literature about ethics/BE considers extensively various areas and/or aspects of BE as organizational ethics (and/or BE of BSs) such as employees’ ethics. 2001. enterprises. . etc.). Crane and Matten. which is originally an individual attribute (i.. etc. 2002. i.). but less so their synergy. and all other organizations as BSs. Caroselli. 2001. Cooper and Argyris. Potocan and Mulej. 2007. Diversity of contents of business ethics In modern literature. 2003. etc. 2004). something. comes to be objectified as a component of the objective conditions: it becomes a part of broader requirements imposed on individuals. e. Potocan. as used in various contexts and for different purposes and denoting different contents (Gensler. as a social group. functional ethics. Diversity prevails. Boonin and Oddie. Jennings.. 2005. For RH/RW business. Shaw. 2003. 2005. 2003. Crane and Matten. 2006. 2006. etc. These authors addressed those viewpoints well. (For details concerning consideration of each areas and/aspects also see: Ulrich. 2005. 2003. Trevino and Nelson. 2000. Thus. one must also take into consideration that functioning and behavior of contemporary organizations importantly depends on the impact all their crucial stakeholders.e. which tend to be preferred in a society or community. 1997. 2007). 2002). Empirical researchers see ethics result from a synergy of behaviors.). VCEN enables humans to distinguish right from wrong. Shea. Potocan and Mulej. 1998. many diverse definitions of the term BE can be found. 2007. Potocan and Mulej.e.K 38. As BSs they create the economic basis of social life and therefore belong to the most important organizations of modern society.3/4 584 Potocan et al. Potocan. This also depends on RH/RW of their understanding of human acting including VCEN. Lafollette. They co-create a culture. organizational relations ethics. Lafollette. Lafollette. which have a crucial influence on human development (Potocan. etc. Where does VCEN/BE fit in business activities? Our business practice persuaded us that VCEN is a feeling rather than a part of the left-brain rationality/knowledge/skill. 1998.). 2005. ways and methods of organizational working and behaving both rationally and emotionally. 2002. including the consideration of functioning and behavior of organizations as BSs. Potocan and Mulej. In literature ethics of work and behavior of BSs is in literature called BE.g. as a formal next step. 2001. 2001.). moral rules result. 2005. 2008. 2007. individuals. Organizations are permanently faced with the dilemma of how to create and assure implementation of RH/RW of behavior and outcomes of their stakeholders. 2005. 2002. The latter influence creation and implementation of the purpose. values accepted/prevailing in a social group. On the basis of our experience from the business practice we feel that a rational cognition of important internal and external requirements and meeting them in business is insufficient for creation of “appropriate RH/RW business” (Potocan. But probably neither theory nor practice offer a solution for attempting to consider BE more holistically. 2006. Thus. 2006. individual values). Stanwick and Stanwick. Mulej et al. etc. VCEN is especially important from the viewpoint of business success of organizations – . it enters (or re-enters) the individual’s starting points in values (for details concerning consideration of each element of VCEN – but not about their synergy. Bowie. also see: Wilson. 1998. Webster Dictionary gives 21 different definitions for BE (Gove. 5. Jennings.

1997.).wikipedia. Jenklin. management. and ethical underpinnings of business and economics. as well as in most of the natural and technological sciences.com/dictionary). etc. BE is mostly understood as follows (Cooper and Argyris.. define the goals of their consideration of BE of organization as. 2001. In the modern theories (and literature) about organization and management most authors use the term BE. Hartman. and decisions where issues of right and wrong are addressed (Crane and Matten. 2003). Ferrell et al. It is less concerned with explaining or describing ethical aspects of events – called descriptive ethics – or analyzing ethical concepts to achieve a deeper understanding of their meaning and justification – called analytical ethics. 2007. . Daft. BE is a normative discipline. Rosenthal and Buchholz. Jenklin. Toward a holistical perception 585 . In the modern business environment. As the organizational practice and career specialization. 2004. In organization and management sciences. Jennings. 2005. 2006. political. 2004.)..merriamwebster. 2007.g. etc. BE is the study of business situations. . normative. 2004. activities. Cooper and Vargas. Lafollette. 2001. they use the term ethics of organization solely to deal with moral suitability of the working and behaving of the organization. Baumol et al. BE is closely related to the philosophy of business. BE is the branch of ethics that examines ethical rules and principles within a commercial context (http://en. 2000.).). 2003.org/wiki/). demand for more ethical business processes and actions (known as ethicism) has been increasing. psychological. the environment has continually pressed BSs to apply and/or improve BE of their working and behavior (Cooper and Argyris. etc.g. 2002. In economics and business economics. especially in last 20-years (Darwall et al. 2006. Daft. Cole. 2006. White. It takes ethical concepts and applies them in specific business situations. context/s of organizational working and behavior. Thus. It makes claims about what should be done and what ought to not be done. They. 2000. e. sociological. Potocan. 2004. in any economic system (www. . 2005. thus. the BE is primarily normative.: economic.Some of most popular definitions of BE include: . It makes specific judgments about right and wrong. 2002. 2000. but unlike the philosophy of business. Like political economy. 2004. 2006. 2006. and historical perspectives. In academia descriptive approaches are also taken. organization. Lovell and Fisher. Various known considerations of BE also differ crucially in authors’ understanding and definition of business (Baumol. Ferrell et al. etc. 1993.: .). which offers economic analysis from the political. At the same time. etc. e. In organizational and management theories they make a distinction between organizational ethics and BE and they use both terms. Brooks. etc. 2007... Potocan and Mulej. It is also closely related to political economy. When discussing BE we must consider that BE is differently understood and defined in different sciences and even inside the same sciences (Bowie. for example in Anglo-Saxon theory and practice about BE there are (serious) differences between Europe and US concerning understanding. 2005. BE is the field of ethics that examines moral contraversies related to the social responsibilities/of business practice. Trevino and Nelson. Brooks. which deals with the philosophical. business.

Velasquez. etc. but more to our views. professional ethics. the different definitions of the content of BE will be classified into five groups all of which link human emotional attributes with organizational functioning in BC: (1) BE as a base or component of the starting points of organizational functioning (hence: backing the objectives emotionally). (2) BE as a factor (e. units. mostly. the following religion-based perceptions of BE (Quinn and Taleaferro.3/4 586 approaches. 2001. Trevino and Nelson. and ethics officers. Because the meaning of BE is still not unified. and Buddhist BEs. Christian.). (5) BE as a result of organizational functioning. 2006. BE is also a process: it is not an inborn attribute with no impact from conditions of life.): Jewish. 1997. BE as a result provides information about the actual functioning and about the necessary measures/criteria for assessment of the planned and actual situation(s).g. our next research question reads: RQ.. compliance. international BE. see in Crane and Matten. 1987. 2007. Singer. 2005. The discussion of BE often depends on the selected religious views held about BE. Potocan. numerous. . Cooper and Argyris. In doing so. 2003. 2001. or the entire organization into which they are united to be formed on the higher organizational levels of work in the BE process. What is BE from the viewpoint of organizations and how to define it for our research? For the purpose of our research. Muslim. etc. and therefore use content definitions mentioned above. For that reasons. ethics programs. 6. schools and research of BE (more about differences. etc. Their discussions focus on many different theoretical issues. and ethics of economic systems (for details concerning consideration of each point see: Ulrich. ethics policies. 2000.K 38. Figure 1 shows business cybernetics view of organization’s BE. resulting in objectives with crucial impact over functioning of the organization under consideration. The Anglo-Saxon theory and practice includes. But such understanding of BE is connected to. etc. we use BE as a component of the starting points of the influential organizational stakeholders. Davies. ethical issues and approaches. we will not discuss it in detail. 2006. Lafollette. 2005.). Our understanding of business ethics In our research of organizations and BC we use BE attain RH/RW in attempts to understand and consider organizations and influences over them. In literature the basic points of discussing BE include: general BE. (3) BE as an interest supporting the activity.). like: conflicting interests. (4) BE as a process of making and applying BE. Caroselli. we can define BE as reflecting the interest of individuals. contexts and methodical starting-points (Lafollette. Therefore. BE as a factor of organizational functioning is what we are focusing on here. one may understand and requisitely holistically define BE on the basis of a synergetic understanding. etc. Bowie. 2000. influential element/attribute) of organizational functioning. especially subjectively defined conceptions. Ferrell et al. Thus. 1999. 2003. Jennings. and depends on. 2005.

management. Potocan et al. synthetic attribute that is basically aimed at the functioning of the BS. It makes sense to analyze BE within this framework as a network of all selected significant viewpoints.) and our presented starting points.Business Cybernetics Business ethics – our understanding Toward a holistical perception 587 Starting points including BE Input E. as a base of working of an organization in synergy with knowledge and conditions Figure 1. BS’s functioning.. BE as a factor BE in Working/Behavior E. dialectical system of viewpoints) defining both the objectives and their realization. Lafollette.g.g. etc. . BE is expressed in the selected viewpoint (or. This is in line with Table I. the selected (dialectical system of) viewpoints. Organizational BE is the general (requisitely holistic) and. organizational. . economic. levels and areas of activity. hopefully. business that enable the RH/RW of humans’ consideration/acting matching the BS’s objectives. 2006. methods. i. Business cybernetics’ view of organization’s BE’ contents A more detailed definition of the term BE depends on the selection and use of the methodology for its consideration. 2004. we consider the acting of BSs from a dialectical system as a synergetic network of all selected crucial viewpoints (e. as a rule. The above-mentioned cognitions about BE are formed to meet the needs of consideration of organizational and individual BE concerned with functioning of BSs. Based on the above-mentioned findings of various authors (Bowie.e. methodologies. 2005): . along with professional assessment and control/directing/management of. In the case of BE. as follows (Potocan. . in the broadest terms.g. including their synergies (we will address the methodological issues another time). 2005. Organizational BE (in our definition) can be described in the most general terms as an emotional attribute of people involved in functioning of the BS under consideration. As interest made and applied Output including BE as result BE. 2001. BE can be best aggregated in a definition.

see for example. Jennings.)? . BE of an inter-organizational groupings emerges as synergy of BEs in the group of organizations with which organizations at stake interacts with their BE. The BEs of organizations can be aggregated into next higher organizational level. This may not be left aside. These levels are: (1) BE of organizational members. The next organizational level deals with the BE of the entire organization. Boatright. 2005. Crane and Matten. but considers them only in their aggregate. 2001. (3) BE of organization. Bowie. although they are not the primary focus of research of organizational BE. Therefore. another open question is important for holistic definition of BE’s content that the authors have raised in the different discussion in the past it reads: how have been the following (basic) relations between business and BE defined so far (Shea. Our definition of business ethics versus others in terms of the RH/RW Those other BE theories that we detected focus on the BE at the organizational level. etc. 2007. one can better attain RH/RW in understanding the BE of organizations including their specific characteristics (Potocan. BEs of organizational members are important.). In a RH/RW definiton. which is the BE of inter-organizational groupings and communities. Now: what makes our definition of BE different? 7. Lafollette. and the organizational BE in return influences BE of individuals and BE of groups. 2005.g. The organizational BE is a synergy of BEs of groups or departments. BE of inter-organizational networks. Government. Potocan. groups and environments of BS (more about different BE theories. etc. The next higher organizational level is the group’s or department’s BE. Boonin and Oddie. because it tackles the integration of both micro and macro levels of BE consideration. BE theory does not consider the BE of individuals.). 2005. BE of important organizational environments.3/4 588 BE emphasizes the so-called business viewpoints rather than the natural and/or technological viewpoints of consideration of features. 2007). 2006. BE includes these viewpoints in synergy. These are synergies of BEs of individuals who work together to perform group tasks. 2006. Potocan. the BE of organizations arises from the methodological viewpoint. 2002. but they fail to consider BE of individuals. When including all levels. Trevino and Nelson. (4) BE of organizational environment (e. 2002. 2003. Therefore. BEs of individuals and BEs of groups impact the organizational BE. from our viewpoint. Though. 1998. 2006. Why should individuals’ ethics be included in BE in theory? They make it. Potocan and Mulej. BEs of other organizations in the community also make an important part of BE of organization’s environment.K 38. 2006. events and processes of real life. non-government and other BE’s environments also belong in a RH acting. etc. (2) BE of organizational groups (and/or departments). as a mezzo theory. especially business. The individual human being’s BE/VCEN is the basic building block of organizational BE. Lawrence and Weber. 2004. But at the same time. For our research we defined four organizational levels of consideration of BE.

Shaw. alongside metaphysics and epistemology (Kagan. 2006.Ethics for business: this relation is based on presumptions. and professionals usually use or interpret “ethics” to refer to elements of professional practice that are parts of dispute resolution. Horgan and Timmons. which are used as a basis for one’s dealing with the chosen target field from a VCEN viewpoint. we will choose its basic theoretical framework to consider BE. etc.g. Ethics is inseparable from economics in some theories (but not in all of them). there are some well-recognized approaches to the content of ethics (Lafollette. 2007. Jennings. Characteristic for the development of BE in this period. Ethics of business (or ethics in business): because of the crucial role of BSs in the present time. 2001. 2002. The specific content of business ethics 8. In this framework.1 Ethics theory’s framework for business ethics’s content Understanding and consideration of BE depends on ethical cognitions. moral standards of most influential organizational stakeholders prevailed in formation of BE. it gives an absolute value to defined moral standards of the society and their related decisive influence of the society (i. 2005. BE (called corporate social responsibility) is a kind of BE becoming a crucial competitive advantage in the current economic crises times. mere lip service was paid to wider social interests. etc. 2004. 2005. natural environment crises times. Shaw. In the formation of BE of BSs in this period.e. Bowie. This is one of the three major branches of philosophy. In this way their interests were realized. 2005. From the discussion of ethics. In this case.). 2001. from the industrial revolution to social responsibility movement in the 1960s. Toward a holistical perception 589 . For our research we understand ethics as a general term for what is often described as the “science of morality”.): philosophers sometimes call it the “science of morality”. and an attribute of BSs in the center of interest in the broadest international community. This relation was in BSs the prevailing form of realization of moral starting-points of the BSs social environment in the early phases of economic development until the industrial revolution. the environment tries to impose the prevailing or chosen moral standards in BSs in a way that enables the realization of its interests and thus the realization of its desired direct or indirect benefits. some theologians consider ethics a branch of theology. In philosophy. 8. In the functioning of modern BSs all mentioned relations have a synergetic influence on BSs and on the entire society. 2002. But the definition of BE alone does not respond to the question: how can a definition of BE match RH/RW and hence be suitably applied to the organzational working and behavior in terms of its content? Let us leave this issue open for a next phase to follow a requisitely unified definition of content of BE. their influential members and/or moral authorities) on BSs. is also the change of the prevaliling descriptive approach to BE of the 1960s into a more or less obligatory normative role defining the modern organizations. ethical behavior is that which is “good”. Boonin and Oddie. but important. interests (e. In theory. Chadwick and Schroeder. The western tradition of ethics is sometimes called “moral philosophy”. 1998. BE: formation of BE after 1960 until now is based on the idea that pluralistic formation of BE tries-on the bases of social consultation and enforcement of ethical co-dependence-to consider equally all different. Lafollette. interests of organizations and their important environments). 2007.

1998. Shea. long-term and broader criteria of RH/RW are applied. 2002). 2002. BE. or to obey social expectations (like. Jennings. etc. Arriving at a short list of representative normative principles in applied ethics is a complex and complicated action (Potocan. such as: altruism. such as: ethics by cases (Shea. 2000. In theory several sub-branches of applied ethics also exist concerning the ethical problems of different professions (for details concerning consideration of each doctrine. Trevino and Nelson. Shea. resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. 1995. In theory and practice several (different) major philosophical doctrines are known. (Ulrich. In practice. medical ethics.K 38. e. Kohlberg. e. Philosophers have also developed a number of competing ideas (e. especially concerning applied ethics. etc. 1999. Brooks. etc.). 2007. political virtues (Crick. which provide for the necessary general ethical content framework for the need of the target discussion about BE. . 2006.). 2007. The contributions of many authors of ethics theories. Caroselli. 1976. 1997. 2000).g. Some important principles are. Trevino and Nelson. 1976. many of which yield opposing conclusions. see for example. Velasquez. etc. 2000. 2002. must not be too narrowly focused. 1998. 2002. social benefit. situational ethics (Ross. divine command ethics. Jennings. Modern theory and practice discuss ethics and/or BE using (specific) bases of ethics.3/4 590 Philosophers (in analytic philosophy) today usually divide ethics (and/or ethical theories) into three general subject areas: metaethics. 2006). Wilson. (for details concerning consideration of each doctrine. and must also be seen as having merit by people on both sides of the given applied ethical issue. 2006. 2007. 1999. 1998. there are many rivaling normative principles from which to choose. Lawrence and Weber. Potocan and Mulej. Trevino and Nelson.. Fredrick. including BE content. and the analytic view of ethics (Bostock. 2006. normative ethics. 2005. the lines of distinction between them are often blurry. etc. consequentialism. Hopefully. Trevino and Nelson. Bowie.). and define its members’ common responsibility to the public.). By using the conceptual tools of metaethics and normative ethics. see for example. The selected principles. Kagan. 1982. 2007). Simons and Usher.). Shaw. doctrines) to explain how to choose what is best for both the individual and society (Kohlberg. Ulrich. Simons and Usher.2 Impacts on the content of business ethics The content of BE in single BSs is defined by ethics theory cognitions (as the general part of the content of BE – see Figure 2) and specific needs and demands of organizational working. principle of benevolence. etc. 2003. personal benefit. see for example. etc. etc. 8.g. It opens the issue of content of BE. No ideal option has gained universal consensus. 2006). Ferrell et al. and applied ethics (for details concerning consideration of each area. are shown in Figure 2. which are defined with the (dialectical) system of all important and selected organizational factors.). 1998. 1997. descriptive ethics (Singer. Unfortunately. The usual solution is to consult several representative normative principles on a given issue and see where the weight of the evidence lies. accountancy ethics.g. 2005). In theory. 2006. 1999. 2005. discussions on applied ethics attempt to resolve various controversial issues. 2005. 1998. Singer. Jennings. Each (sub-) branch characterizes its own issues and problems that may arise in the ethical codes of the given profession. Singer.

: Personal benefit Social Principle of Principle of Principle Principle of benefit benevolence paternalism of harm honesty Specific Bases of ethics (especially for Applied Ethics) E. Cole. As shown in Figure 3. also see: Shea. Singer. 2003. the environmental factors with (important) influence on the definition of BE are called general factors. Daft. industrial factors.g. metaphysical issue.g. 2003.). Factors that influence on organizational BE . and economic General factors Organizational Specific factors BE of organization stakeholders Historical and cultural VCEN of organization BE of organization Structural factors of organization Content factors of organization Economic Industrial Figure 3.: Ethics by cases Political virtues Situational ethics Descriptive Analytic view ethics of ethics Etc. historical and cultural factors. – Other possible normative principles Figure 2.g.g. psychological issues) Normative ethics (With two basic areas: theory of conduct. With different sub-branches of applied ethics. 1999.g.Ethics Metaethics (With two basic areas: e. Armstrong. Ethics theory framework for BE’s content Organizational BE emerges from the interaction based on interdependence of general and specific organizational factors (Figure 3) (Potocan. e. 2003. business ethics) Toward a holistical perception 591 Different philosophical doctrines (for explaination how to choose what is best for both the individual and society) E. etc. 1998. 2004. 2001. 2006. 2002. g. Crane and Matten. Bowie. 2006. theory of values) Applied ethics (e. – Other possible bases of ethics Etc. – Other possible doctrines Different normative principles (which can be used for representative normative principle) E. : Altruism Divine command ethics Consequentialism Virtue ethics Social contract theory Etc. for details concerning consideration of each factor – but not in their synergy. The important general factors include: organizational factors.

K 38. etc. Daft. 2000. especially BE. consideration of knowledge is not enough for RW of cognitions. they can be envisioned as a set of overlapping elements that underly an organization’s structure and work process. The basic specific factors include: organizational VCEN. see for example.g. factors of different areas of research. Daft. Ethics. The interaction and synergies of all crucial factors produce different BEs in different organizational parts (e. They create a basis for measuring and comparing organizations. see for example. 2002. 2005). 2002. Potocan and Mulej. etc. Content dimensions can be confusing because they represent both the organization and the environment. factors of different organizational levels of research. 2005. 2006.). interaction of all factors with influence on BE. markets. objectives and strategy. including their views on BE (Potocan.g. hierarchy of authority. and environment. etc. and cause changes in BE over time. They describe the organizational setting that influences and shapes the structural dimensions (e. The general factors describe important characteristics of internal or external organizational environments. Jennings. its business program. Stanwick and Stanwick. the detected diversity of definition of contents of BC is a surprising fact. size. contextual factors. 9. etc. Important content factors include: technology. Organizational content factors characterize the entire organizations. 2006. is equally crucial as knowledge and outer/objective conditions are. Jennings. including the needs and demands of environments concerning organizational functioning. 2008. Important structural factors include: formalization. especially in a longer term and under severe competition. etc. because humans are both rational and emotional and spiritual beings. VCEN of organization: for some further thoughts about VCEN of an organization see in Section 4 at paragraph 4. 2008. including BE. . They include: factors with influence on BE of organization and/or factors of BE of organizational stakeholders. Therefore. Ethical behavior of humans and their organizations belongs to preconditions of their success.3/4 592 factors (Potocan. and are so in synergy. On the other hand. Potocan and Mulej. skills. It requires us to consider also that characteristics of BE of organizational groups make the synergetic entity of all important factors that create and influence the organizational BE.). Cooper and Argyris. Danger of oversight requires understanding to match RH/RW. areas). organizational levels. 2000. 2002. but definition of environment in that case is based on organizational understanding of the environment. professionalism and personnel ratio. 2005. Their details exceed our frame of discussion. 2005. and needs and demands of organizational stakeholders concerning organizational functioning.). specialization. the specific BE factors describe important characteristics of organization. Once this is self-evident. BE of all organizational levels being considered) (For details concerning each specific factor – but not in their synergy. Stanwick and Stanwick. interaction of all factors of BE. and characteristics of BE of organizational groups and/or organizational stakeholders (e. for details concerning each general factor – but not in their synergy. Cooper and Argyris. 2002. and different organizations. structural factors. Organizational structural factors (mainly) define the internal organizational characteristics.g. centralization. Some conclusions In a RH approach to research of business practice and development of business cybernetics.

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