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PHIL660 - Applied Ethics

Rob Westerlund

Worldview and Business Essay

Professor Tedi Hasapopoulos

October 30, 2011


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Worldview and Business Essay

The MBA program at Bethel University instructs its students on ethics in order to be

adequately prepared them to make ethical decision upon graduation and placement in a business

setting. The foundation upon which a businessperson bases their ethical decisions is their

morals. One’s morals are formed while reaching maturity from training which originates from

one’s family, environment, and nation. These three sources of information and formation are the

elements which make up one’s worldview. In order to understand how one makes ethical

decisions, they must first understand their worldview, morals, and ethical approach.

A worldview is described as an individual’s view of the world from their particular viewpoint.

Depending on your view, there could be millions of worldviews, with each individual having

their own unique perspective of how the world works, but this understanding is not helpful in

how Immanuel Kant (1899) originally meant it to be used. There could be dozens or hundreds of

worldviews as broken down by individual people groups, classified by variations of religion,

cultural practices, and philosophies. This paper is going to focus on three major worldviews for

western European cultures; Scientific Naturalism, Post-Modernism, and Theism. Each of these

worldviews represents one of the most common worldviews found in today’s world. In other

words, these ‘schools of thought’ are how people today perceive today’s world. But where does

one’s worldview come from?

One’s worldview can develop in many different ways depending on one’s culture, history,

and personality. One way to look at an individual’s process of development of worldview is a

triangle in which one’s culture, philosophy, and theology inform each other. A person’s most

intimate training can be classified as Theology, for it is one’s family that often determines one’s

spiritual beliefs. The next largest influence, experience in one’s


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Philosophy

Theology Culture

home town or school, is Culture, which consists of a region’s history, tradition, and practices.

The largest geographical area which develops a person’s Philosophy is their region or country.

A person born in Soviet Ukraine would have been indoctrinated by their national government as

to what philosophy to embrace, Dialectical Materialism, in this case. They would learn about

their culture from their neighbors and village. Often their theology, which may differ

significantly from that espoused by the government, might have been taught by their family

members. Naturally, the degree of influence from philosophy, culture, or theology could vary

drastically from region to region. There is also a fourth element to worldview which has perhaps

the most important element of developing one’s worldview, and this is a person’s own

personality.

There are numerous ways to quantify in individual’s personality, using tests to assess one’s

intelligence, strengths, personality, multiple intelligences, and learning styles, but in this case

one must consider a person’s individual, perhaps biological, propensity towards conservatism,

faith, ability to accept uncertainty, and strength of faith. Some people are predisposed to

believing in the supernatural, whereas some are incapable of conceiving a ‘higher power’.

Likewise, some people have a more conservative nature, both socially and fiscally, which may

also be a factor in how they allow their worldview to develop. Studies have found that political
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conservatives and liberals have subtle differences in the structure of their brains, suggesting a

biological pre-disposition towards one way of viewing the world over another.

Many people’s worldview ossifies as they become adults, notwithstanding the occasional

major paradigmatic shift in one’s worldview. While many people settle on a worldview by their

twenties or so there are the few people, like C.S. Lewis, who experience a dramatic change in

their worldview by evolving from an agnostic to a Theist, or from a spiritual person to an atheist,

such as the comedienne Julia Sweeney.

As a person’s worldview develops they also develop a personal morality, again based on the

theology and philosophy they have caught from their family and homeland. In the United States

and western Europe, both of which share similar, though variant, histories in culture, theology,

and philosophy, people have settled into three dominant worldviews; Scientific Naturalism, Post-

Modernism, and Theism (Hasapopoulos, 2011). These three broad worldviews can be presented

in historical order, beginning with the Theistic view. From roughly the time of Christ to the 15th

century most Europeans embraced a theistic view in which they turned to the Bible, or more

accurately, the Church, for their source of truth. After the Enlightenment, philosophers and

scientist became more modern and turned to science, a study of the environment around them, as

a source for truth, and not the Church. After these modern thinkers came the Post-Modern

mindset which argued that there is no Truth, with a capital T, but that whatever truth there may

be is subjective and is seen differently be each perceiver. These three different views can be

used to describe the three main worldviews which are found in America today. The difficulty is

that when American businesspeople try to make ethical decision based on individual morals,

founded upon their own worldviews, there can be so many different views, beliefs, and ethics

that it makes it nearly impossible to agree upon the right answer to an ethical dilemma.
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While it can’t be argued that Americans hold different views on ethical issues, it can be

argued that there is still a way to for businesses to agree upon ethical guidelines for doing

business. Though people who hold differing worldviews seek moral truth from different sources

they do find some agreement on certain moral principles often referred to as Natural Law.

Natural Law, as defined by C.S. Lewis is the law which is found written on everyman’s heart

(1943), is to some degree accepted by many viewpoints. Perhaps there is a ‘Natural Ethic’ in

which it is understood by many people that certain business practices are wrong not because

anybody told them they were wrong, but because they just knew in their hearts they were wrong.

Perhaps the litmus test for ethical business practices is the Golden Rule, which seems to take on

a more and more secular acceptance as time goes on. By considering what a person would and

wouldn’t like other people doing to them, they then can determine what they should or shouldn’t

do to other people. While this guideline may still leave many ethical questions up for debate, it

seems to do well as a widely-accepted rule for all to follow.

As for my worldview, I would certainly have to describe it as Theist. I was raised in a

Christian home, trained as a pastor, and whole-heartedly turn to scripture for Truth.

Ontologically I see all people here on earth as put here by God, preordained with foreknowledge,

and that God has a plan for our lives. Epistemologically I find that God reveals his truth to us

through natural and divine revelation, including the Bible and the Holy Spirit, which means

anthropologically I see man as having been formed in the imago dei, the image of God, and that

though we are flawed and sinful, we are still special in the eyes of God and that we were created

to served and worship him.

When confronted with ethical decisions I generally fall back on my upbringing and think

roughly WWJD? While my ethic generally jibes with the majority of business ethics, I do find
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that there are several issues where we disagree, such as with providing medical benefits for

same-sex couples, tolerating drunkenness and office affairs, and discussing religion at work.

While I may disagree at times with work-place rules, I do find that there aren’t any standards that

prevent me from working in the marketplace.

The challenge in this class and in future ethical debates in a business setting is to be able to

better express my own ethical standards, better understand what the world’s standards are, and

know when I must take a stand for what I believe in. At this point in my life, I have no problem

losing a job because of standing up for my beliefs. I left that fear behind decades ago. My true

challenge is to be able to maintain a job working in an environment in which I may be the only

voice of reason who speaks up for what is right and find a way to successfully affect those

decisions. It is in the successful advocation for doing what is ethical in which I will have truly

fought the good fight and won the race.


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References

Kant, I. (1899) The Critique of Pure Reason

Lewis, C. S. (2001). The abolition of man, or, Reflections on education with special reference to

the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools. San Francisco:

HarperSanFrancisco.

Hasapopoulos, T., (2011) Worldview 101 PowerPoint Presentation

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