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A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

Article · December 2011

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A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

This note will present a practical framework for ethical reasoning, in other words, a set of
questions to help you assess the ethical implications of a course of action. While many of us believe
that we approach such assessments with all of our reasoning powers at the ready, we actually first
come to moral judgments with instinct and emotion – a nearly instantaneous judgment that we make
about morally charged situations.1 Rational analysis comes as a second step, after our instinctual

In considering morally-charged situations, we build on a foundation of personal, family, and

cultural values, tenets of our religious beliefs and personal philosophies, past experiences, prior
knowledge, and general understanding of what morality means. Given the complexity and ambiguity
of ethical challenges, you can benefit from having a set of intuitive and practical questions to apply to
the situations you find yourself in. If the topic is ethical assessment, what should this framework

The search for a single, all-encompassing approach that will enable users to confidently determine
the morality of an action has attracted philosophers for thousands of years. But each moral
philosophy has strengths and weaknesses3, so a better approach, many find, is to test a possible
action by examining it from multiple ethical perspectives.4 These questions, which we will examine
in more detail, represent powerful and distinctive approaches to moral reasoning:

 Am I comfortable with the likely consequences of this action?

 Am I meeting my duties and respecting others’ rights?

 Am I respecting the community and its norms?

 Am I meeting my commitments and my company’s commitments?


Professor Sandra J. Sucher prepared this note as the basis for class discussion. Visiting Associate Professor Nien-hê Hsieh revised the note.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-
7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to This publication may not be
digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.
610-050 A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

Am I comfortable with the likely consequences of this action?

Testing for impact: consequences The central thrust of this question is to consider the
impact of your proposed course of action, principally on others. While consequence-based thinking is
common in all aspects of business planning, the origin of this line of reasoning as a moral philosophy
is utilitarianism, crafted in the nineteenth century by English philosophers and social reformers
Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism aims to maximize social welfare by balancing
the interests of individuals who will be affected by an action or policy, seeking, as it is often referred
to in shorthand: the greatest good for the greatest number. 5 In implementation, this test requires you
to: 1) seek good outcomes for affected parties; 2) be objective in identifying everyone’s interests and
the likely consequences of your actions; 3) be impartial – weighing the effects on others equal to the
effects on yourself.6 Objectivity and impartiality are key elements of this test, ensuring that you have
a realistic view of the effects of your proposed action.

Our question is constructed as a two-step test, however, in which you first identify affected parties
and the likely consequences of an action, and then assess whether you, as an individual, are
comfortable with these consequences. Since it is your (or your organization’s) action that you are
assessing, this second step is crucial to exercising judgment and taking responsibility for actions you
might take.

Application: Testing for consequences usually occurs in a stakeholder analysis or stakeholder

impact assessment,7 which might look something like this:

Stakeholders Likely Impact: Short-Term Likely Impact: Long-Term

Stakeholder 1
Stakeholder 2

In conducting this analysis, the most important considerations are 1) to correct for a narrow
perspective on the situation, build a comprehensive list of stakeholders, looking beyond immediately
impacted individuals, groups, and organizations to second- and third-order effects that your action
might have; 2) to correct for “short-termism,” consider longer-term consequences as well as
immediate effects.

While the neat lines and boxes make the test for consequences look easy, you will want to keep in
mind that your analysis depends heavily on predicting outcomes that are far from certain. It is
tempting, in fact, to insist that too little is knowable and to avoid the exercise altogether. A review of
noted individual and organizational missteps would suggest, however, that the problem is more
frequently too little attention paid to forecasting consequences, rather than too much.

With all of its strengths, the consequences test is not a silver bullet. If it were the only form of
assessment used, the search for the “greatest good for the greatest number” could lead to unjust
distributions and tyranny of the majority.8 It also is criticized for failure to respect individual rights. 9
Both are reasons why your second question is important.

Am I meeting my duties and respecting others’ rights?

West Point cadets pray to be the kind of person who will choose the “harder right over the easier
wrong.” The Cadet’s Prayer has endured for decades as a hope for those who know they will be
tested under harsh conditions in which ambiguity, unreliable information, and constant threat all

A Framework for Ethical Reasoning 610-050

make it hard to keep to first principles.10 But what helps you understand the “harder right?” Why is
an act considered morally right or wrong?

To answer these questions, we turn to moral duties and rights. In this line or reasoning, what
makes an action right or wrong is whether it conforms to a moral rule, regulation or principle. One
acts on one’s moral duties – and respects others’ rights – when one acts in accordance with moral
rules. These are related to each other; for example, your right to enjoy your own property commits
me to not steal or appropriate it for my use. For this reason, moral duties and rights are frequently
described as two sides of the coin of ethical responsibility. Far from heroic, duties and rights are
viewed as the foundation of common morality, establishing a moral minimum and reflecting
expectations for ordinary ethical conduct. But calling them a “minimum” or “common” or “ordinary”
does not necessarily make them easy to fulfill. That is why they are, frequently, the “harder right.”

Testing for bright lines: duties This test requires you to identify your responsibilities to
others and to commit to fulfill them. But what obligates you to others? Political philosopher Michael
Sandel proposes three categories of moral responsibility:11 1) Some obligations are voluntary – the
kind you consent to when you make contracts or specific commitments to others. 2) A second type is
an obligation of solidarity.12 These are the obligations you incur through membership in various
communities, and include duties you have as a family member, citizen, professional, and active and
committed participant in other groups. 3) Underlying all of these, and the foundation of the minimal
expectations you are held to, are so-called natural duties. Sandel’s third category draws on the ideas of
eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who developed a philosophy of obligation
based on the equality of all humans as rational beings. Natural duties are owed to persons as
persons,13 rational beings who, because of their power to think, choose, and decide, are worthy of
dignity and respect.14

Application: Most business leaders and organizations appreciate that they have duties that they
must fulfill in conducting business. They document their ideas in various ways, including codes of
conduct developed to give guidance and establish their own “bright lines.” While we might expect
wide variation in these expectations globally and across industries, a team of researchers analyzed
codes of conduct of leading businesses around the world and found substantial overlap. 15 Their
analysis identified eight basic moral principles as widely accepted standards for moral duties that
business people should fulfill. Exhibit 1 details these principles and duties, including specific actions
that they either prohibit or require. The list, as you will see below, is a package especially tailored to
business, bringing together some business-specific ethical principles with relevant common moral
duties you would expect anyone to attempt to uphold.

Fiduciary principle: Act in the best interests of the company and its investors.
Property principle: Respect property and the rights of those who own it.
Reliability principle: Keep promises, agreements, contracts, and other commitments.
Transparency principle: Conduct business in a truthful and open manner.
Dignity principle: Respect the dignity of all people.
Fairness principle: Deal fairly with all parties.
Citizenship principle: Act as responsible members of the community.
Responsiveness principle: Be responsive to the legitimate claims and concerns of others.

610-050 A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

The researchers also noted that across different cultural and social contexts, the significance and
interpretation of these principles can vary tremendously, requiring sensitivity in understanding how
they might be applied in practice.16 Nonetheless, this list and the more detailed version you find in
Exhibit 1 can serve as a useful reference point for your assessment of a proposed course of action.
While easy to devolve into a “check the box” exercise, such a review can provide insight into the
ways in which your proposed action may cross many moral bright lines.

Testing for bright lines: rights Rights are the other side of the coin of moral responsibility.
The natural duties owed to persons as natural beings are commonly understood in terms of respect
for their rights. For example, the right to physical freedom implies a duty not to engage in coercion. A
rights test identifies the moral rights at stake and assesses how those rights would fare under the
proposed course of action. Rights are associated with the moral and political philosophy of liberal
individualism, which asserts that societies must establish a “space” in which individuals are free to
pursue their own interests and are protected from intrusion from the state. 17

The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many national constitutions describe
human rights as “unalienable” – an entitlement of individuals that is accorded to them solely on the
basis of their humanity.18 Rights are thus acknowledged standards for the treatment of people, 19 and
as such, are justified claims that individuals or groups can make upon other individuals,
organizations, or society, calling upon them to either provide goods and services (these are referred
to as positive rights) or to prevent them from acting in a certain way (referred to as negative rights).20

Moral rights are not, however, absolute, and sometimes must give way to other claims.21 In a
pandemic, for example, freedom to travel might be restricted for sick individuals to protect the
interests of the society. But social (or economic) welfare alone is not sufficient justification to
circumscribe an individual’s rights. If it were, there would be little strength behind rights

Application: The aim of a rights test is to ensure that basic rights are respected. If they are not, an
important distinction in practice is whether your proposed action violates or infringes another’s
rights.23 A violation of a right simply rides rough-shod over it. An infringement, on the other hand, 1)
acknowledges the right, 2) requires that the individual or organization justify the infringement on
moral as well as prudential grounds, and 3) frequently requires mitigation to limit negative effects,
and restitution to the individual or group to demonstrate commitment to preserving the right and the
welfare of the affected parties.

More generally, widely recognized rights establish expectations for corporate conduct. Exhibit 2,
for example, relates human rights from the U.N. Universal Declaration to standards of behavior that
would demonstrate adherence to and support for the rights of various stakeholders of the firm.

Bright line tests are useful to establish the boundaries of moral conduct based on objective
standards and definitions of duties and rights. But in emphasizing the claims of individuals, these
ethical theories have been criticized for paying inadequate attention to the value of community as a
source of social cohesion and the setting in which moral beliefs are shaped and carried out.

Additionally, a community-based view of moral duties and responsibilities is central to a variety

of traditions of thought, many of them non-Western. For example, Confucianism emphasizes the
value of familial relations and mastering li (the rituals and rules through which one fulfills one’s role
in society).24 Ubuntu, which connotes community and interconnectedness, is considered to be a
foundational ethical concept across a variety of African traditions. 25 Indian religions, including
Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, call for ahimsa (nonviolence toward all living beings) on grounds

A Framework for Ethical Reasoning 610-050

that all life is connected as one. 26 In the Jewish tradition, a concern for community is reflected in the
concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world) and the practices associated with it.27 A fundamental
concept in Islam is the Ummah (the Muslim community), which expresses the unity and equality of all
Muslims.28 The value of community and the importance of the common good also play an important
role in Catholic social thought and many monastic traditions and other strands of Christianity.29

Your third question will allow you to incorporate the value of community into your ethical

Am I respecting the community and its norms?

Community-based approaches to ethical reasoning do not always lend themselves to easy
characterization and they admit of a wide variety. This note tries to capture some of that subtlety
while, at the same time, providing an approach that can be used by business leaders operating in and
across many communities.30 Underlying many rights-based approaches to ethics, such as the
approach associated with Immanuel Kant, is a view of the self as “unencumbered.” According to this
view, we can always step back from any project or social practice and freely question whether we
want to continue pursuing it.31 A communitarian approach to ethical reasoning rejects this “choice-
centric” view of the self on grounds that it ignores the role of communities in shaping the
attachments and commitments that define who we are.32 Absent these attachments and
commitments, we would lack the framework to determine where we stand on some of the most
important questions in our lives, such as what is good, or what is valuable, or what ought to be done.
Without a community, we would “be at sea.”33 Communities can have moral significance even under
views that privilege individual choice because they give significance and meaning to our choices. The
act of marriage, for example, has significance because it occurs against a broader set of beliefs about
what it means. Vibrant communities are needed to ensure that we have a range of meaningful
options from which to choose.34

Testing for the value of community Communities are often categorized as one of three
kinds. The first is a community of place, such as a city, that carries for individuals a sense of home or
belonging, sometimes even after they leave. The second is a community of memory—a group of
“strangers who share a morally significant history.” Examples include a nation or a language-based
ethnocultural group. The third is a psychological community—a community of “personal interaction
governed by sentiments of trust, co-operation, and altruism.” The family is a standard example.35 The
firm is often proposed as another.36

Application: Because communities differ, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to

respecting the value of community in a specific context. What can be outlined here are three levels of
analysis involved in respecting the value of community. The first is from your perspective as a
community member. The second and third are from an external perspective of operating across
different communities.

The first level involves a communitarian approach toward duties and responsibilities. As noted above, a
communitarian approach to ethical reasoning does not start with individual rights. Duties are
characterized not in terms of the rights of others, but rather as attaching to the roles and relationships
that you occupy in the community. To use an analogy, consider a sports team. 37 Suppose one player
continually fails to pass the ball to another teammate better placed to score a point. This player has
done something wrong, but it would be unnecessary and odd (and perhaps even change our
understanding of the game) to characterize her failure as a violation of the other teammate’s rights.
Rather, the thought is that each player occupies a role that carries with it certain responsibilities

610-050 A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

defined by the good of the team. The player’s failure is in not fulfilling her role. A communitarian
approach toward ethical reasoning involves fulfilling your role and respecting the relationships you
occupy in the community.

The second is to consider the impact of the proposed course of action on the vitality of a community. At
first, this may look similar to a stakeholder analysis or stakeholder impact assessment. Communities
are comprised of individuals, who if affected by the proposed course of action, would fall under a
stakeholder analysis. Testing for the value of community, however, is broader. It focuses attention on
the culture, practices, and shared meanings that exist beyond any one individual and beyond purely
economic interests. It also asks about the impact of the proposed course of action as interpreted by
those affected by the action, which is in contrast to the objectivity and impartiality demanded by the
test for consequences. One way to articulate this test is in terms of the impact of the proposed course
of action on a community’s way of life.

The third involves respecting relevant differences across communities. Communities may differ in the
prioritization of rights when they come into conflict or when there are limited resources to spend on
their realization. Another way in which communities may differ is with respect to the justification of
a right. For example, in some communities, rights to democracy may not be justified on grounds of
individual freedom as they often are in Western contexts, but rather on grounds that their exercise
strengthens the nation.38 In thinking about the proposed course of action, you should ask whether it
would violate a deeply held value or norm in that community. Notice that this is not the same as
saying that you should always act the way that members of a community would act—that “when in
Rome, do as the Romans do.” The idea here is to focus on the most importantly held values and
norms in question.

In applying the test for the value of community at the second and third levels you will want to
avoid making two common assumptions. The first is to assume that communities are unified in terms
of their norms and practices. The norms and practices of a given community may be the subject of
internal criticism, where the criticism is made with reference to the values of the community. 39 So
determining how “the community” feels about a proposed action may be a more complex analysis
than you might have thought. The second is to assume there are no similarities across communities. 40
For example, some version of the golden rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto
you”) is found in most of the world’s religious and philosophical traditions. 41 So a comprehensive
community-based approach to reasoning also requires looking for points of commonality and
similarities in thought and approach.

Community-based approaches to ethical reasoning are often characterized as highlighting

difference, but this need not always be the case. One community-based approach is to think in terms
of a global community. Like a natural rights approach to ethical reasoning, this recognizes the
equality of all people. Where it differs is in taking the common good and shared humanity, rather
than individual rights, as the basis for our duties and responsibilities.

Your first three questions (Am I comfortable with the consequences of this action? Am I meeting my
duties and respecting others’ rights? Am I respecting the community and its norms?) are, by and large, a
“view from the outside” – a way of ensuring that you are taking into account ethical considerations
that many others have found to be useful. But ethical analysis also requires a “view from the inside”
to allow you to incorporate the values and beliefs that you, and your organization, hold and want to
honor in making decisions.

A Framework for Ethical Reasoning 610-050

Am I meeting my commitments and my company’s commitments?

Testing for meaning: commitments This test assesses the proposed course of action against
your own and your company’s commitments. It recognizes that moral challenges are not just tests of
moral reasoning and right conduct; they are also tests of personal and organizational identity.
Through extensive interviews with managers, one researcher found that moral challenges and right-
versus-right challenges in particular, were experienced as “defining moments.” 42 These are situations
in which individuals and organizations must establish priorities among their values, moral
aspirations, sense of purpose, and goals. Defining moments operate on individual managers and
organizations in similar ways: 1) they reveal at least some of their basic values, 2) test the strength of
their commitment to the beliefs and goals they espouse, and 3) shape the individual and the
institution in new ways, establishing precedents and expectations about values, purpose and
approach that may last long into the future. 43

Application: Appealing to commitments is not as straightforward as it may appear, even with a

solid foundation of personal and organizational values. You should expect to be engaged in one or
more of the following tasks: 1) interpreting general statements of principle or belief in light of the
particular details of a specific situation to determine what action they suggest; 2) discovering new
principles that the situation calls for, since many moral challenges represent new situations for which
no moral “decision rule” has been established; 3) ranking commitments to different individuals and
groups or to different ethical principles in the face of a conflict among them; 4) trading off one moral
“good” for another. This last category is at the heart of many LCA challenges, which represent a
conflict among commitments that are denominated quite differently – market share, personal wealth,
personal integrity, organizational and social welfare, and the like.

Quick Tests and Summary

In addition to the substantive analysis described above, a series of “quick tests” can be useful to
apply to a proposed course of action. These well-known questions44 reflect the general thrust of each
of the areas of this ethical assessment framework. They can be used to generate a quick, high-level
assessment, sharpen debate, or serve as a final, summary view of the issues.

Visibility – testing for consequences:

Would I be comfortable if this action were described on the front page of a respected newspaper?

Generality45 – testing for bright lines:

Would I be comfortable if everyone in a similar situation did this?

Suitability – testing for the value of community:

How would my (or our) action be viewed by a member of this community?

Legacy – testing for commitments:

Is this how I’d like my leadership (or we’d like our organization) to be remembered?

Ethical challenges are never easy – whether they present the need to choose the “harder right”
over the “easier wrong,” or to choose one set of values and goals and interests and stakeholders over

610-050 A Framework for Ethical Reasoning

another. It makes sense to call them defining moments, because quite frequently, that is what they

The framework laid out in this note will provide you with a starting point to assess your response
to a morally challenging situation, building a foundation for your ethics lens. It is meant to
complement your own personal values and beliefs and established ways of handling such challenges.
It gives you a practical and intuitive set of questions to use to assess a course of action, and provides
you with a framework to help others in your organization evaluate responses they may be
considering. It is a skill worth developing.

Exhibit 1 Widely Endorsed Standards of Corporate Conduct

Principles What they require What they prohibit

Diligence, candor, loyalty to company Unauthorized self-dealing
Disclosure of conflicts of interest Self-benefit at expense of company
Fiduciary Prudence, intelligence, best efforts Negligence, carelessness, half-hearted
Bribery, inducing breach of fiduciary duty
Protect human health, safety, privacy, dignity Coercion, humiliation, invasion of privacy
Respect fundamental human rights Injury to health, safety
Dignity Affirmative action to develop human Force, violence, harming the innocent
capacities Violations of basic human rights
Special concern for the vulnerable
Respect for others’ property Theft, embezzlement
Safeguarding own property Misappropriation of intellectual property
Responsible use of own property Waste
Infringement on others’ property
Accuracy, truthfulness, honesty Fraud, deceit
Accurate presentation of information Misrepresentation
Disclosure of material information Materially misleading nondisclosures
Correction of misinformation
Fidelity to commitments, keeping promises Breach of promise
Fulfilling contracts, carrying out agreements Breach of contract
Care in making commitments—not more than Going back on one’s word
can deliver Fraudulent promises
Fair dealing (in exchange) Preferential or arbitrary treatment
Fair treatment (opportunity, pay) Unfair discrimination
Due process (notice, opportunity to be heard) Unfair competitive advantage
Fair competition (conduct among rivals) Suppressing competition
Respect for law and regulation Illegality, indifference to the law
Share in maintaining the commons Freeloading, free riding
Citizenship Cooperation with public officials Injury, damage to society, the environment
Civic contribution Improper involvement in politics or
Recognizing government’s jurisdiction government
Readiness to listen Indifference to legitimate claims and
Responsiveness Responding to complaints and suggestions claimants
Addressing legitimate concerns of others Neglect of serious concerns

Source: Based on Lynn S. Paine, Rohit Deshpandé, Joshua D. Margolis, and Kim E. Bettcher, “Up to Code: Does Your
Company’s Conduct Meet World-Class Standards?” Harvard Business Review (December 2005).

610-050 -10-

Exhibit 2 Human Rights and Corporate Standards of Conduct

For business, respecting human rights means, in part, adhering to certain standards of conduct. This chart shows the links between key human rights, as
enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments, and the corporate behaviors that foster respect for those rights.

Human Rights Standard of Corporate Conducta

Protect human health and safety

Cooperate with public authorities to address threats to public health and safety from the company’s
General products and services
The rights to life, liberty and security of person correspond to Communicate and consult with communities affected by environmental, health, and safety impacts
general duties to abstain from conduct that infringes upon the of the enterprise
health and safety of others. These duties cover a broad range of Adhere to environmental laws and standards domestically and internationally
conduct, including conduct that harms the environment and thereby
puts health and safety at risk. Protect and, where possible, improve the natural environment
Prefer suppliers and partners who observe applicable environmental standards
Ensure that security personnel respect international standards on the use of force
Employ work practices that respect employees dignity and human rights
Abstain from directly or indirectly using forced or child labor
Employment-Related Protect employees from avoidable injury and illness in the workplace
Rights relating to the employment relationship include the broad Offer employees fair and reasonable compensation
rights to life, liberty and security discussed above, along with more
specific rights such as nondiscrimination/equal opportunity; Recognize employees’ right to free association and collective bargaining
freedom of association, including the right to engage in union Practice nondiscrimination and provide equal employment opportunity
activity; fair pay; freedom from slavery and forced labor; and
freedom from child labor, including the right to education. Prevent harassment in the workplace
Respect employee privacy and confidentiality
Prefer suppliers and partners whose employment practices respect human dignity and human rights

Customer-Related Ensure that products and services sustain or enhance customer health and safety
Rights relating to customers include the rights to life, liberty and
security of person discussed above, as well as privacy-related Give customers adequate health and safety information, warnings, and labels
rights such as freedom of thought, conscience, opinion and
expression. Protect personal or confidential customer data

Source: Adapted from the Global Business Standards Codex. See Lynn Paine, Rohit Deshpandé, Joshua D. Margolis, and Kim Eric Bettcher, “Up to Code: Does Your Company’s Conduct Meet World-
Class Standards?” Harvard Business Review, December 2005.
The LCA Ethics Lens 610-050


1 Jonathan Haidt, “The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology,” Science 316 (May 2007).
2 Ibid.
3 See, for example, Michael Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (New York: Farrar Strauss and
Giroux, 2009); Joseph L. Badaracco, Defining Moment: When Managers Must Choose between Right and Right
(Boston, Massachusetts, 1997) pp.25-40, Craig E. Johnson, Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership (Thousand
Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005), pp. 129-155, and Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress,
Principles of Biomedical Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 337-377.
4 Consistent with other general treatments of this topic, we will use the terms “ethical” and “moral”
5 This is a colloquial, rather than strict, statement of utilitarianism. This account of utilitarianism is meant to

give a working view of the key elements of the philosophy and how it might be reasonably employed by
individuals in organizations; it is far from comprehensive. In its simplicity, it reflects “act” rather than “rule”
utilitarianism. See Beauchamp and Childress, pp. 343-345 for a discussion of the differences between these two
6 Beauchamp and Childress op. cit., p. 348.
7 A 1964 document is often cited as the origin of the term “stakeholder,” but use became widespread after the

1984 publication of R. Edward Freeman, Strategic Planning: A Stakeholder Approach (Boston, Mass.: Pitman
Publishing, 1984). Interpretations and usages have since proliferated, and the term has even given rise to a
theory of the firm. For a roundup, see Thomas Donaldson and Lee E. Preston, “The Stakeholder Theory of the
Corporation: Concepts, Evidence, and Implications,” Academy of Management Review, vol. 20, no. 1 (1995): 65–91.
Although the stakeholder theory of the firm has been criticized on various grounds, most critics acknowledge
that stakeholders’ claims cannot be ignored. See, for example, Elaine Sternberg, “Stakeholder Theory Exposed,”
Corporate Governance Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 1 (March 1996). Footnote from Lynn Sharp Paine, Ethics: A Basic
Framework, HBS note 9-307-059.
8 Beauchamp and Childress, p. 347.
9 Sandel, p. 37.
10 The full text of the prayer reads: O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near

to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.
Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of
hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life.
Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when
the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns
to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against
flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of
service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with
sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and
unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country.
All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all. – Amen., accessed January 2010.

610-050 The LCA Ethics Lens

11 Sandel, pp. 223-225.

12 Ibid., p. 225.
13 Ibid., p. 223.
14 Ibid., p. 104.
15 Lynn S. Paine, Rohit Deshpande, Joshua D. Margolis, and Kim E. Bettcher, “Up to Code: Does Your

Company’s Conduct Meet World-Class Standards,” Harvard Business Review (December 2005).
16 Lynn S. Paine, personal correspondence.
17 Ibid., p. 356.
18, accessed January 2010.
19 Beauchamp and Childress, op.cit., p. 362.
20 Ibid., p. 358.
21 Ibid.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid.
David Wong, “Chinese Ethics,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, accessed

September 2011. Roger Ames, Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011).
25 P.H. Coetzee and A.P.J. Roux, eds., The African Philosophy Reader, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2003). Kwasi

Wiredu, ed., A Companion to African Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).

26 "ahimsa." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia

Britannica, 2011. Web. 06 Sep. 2011. <>. J.N.

Mohanty, Classical Indian Philosophy (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000).
27 Sarah Karesh and Michael Hurvitz, Encyclopedia of Judaism (New York: Facts on File, 2006).
28 "Ummah" Oxford Dictionary of Islam. John L. Esposito, ed. Oxford University Press Inc. 2003. Oxford

Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Harvard University Library. 30 November 2011
29 Charles Curran, Catholic Social Teaching: 1891-present (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press,
30 In the contemporary philosophical literature, for example, the “communitarian” perspective takes a

number of different forms. Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2002), chapter 6.
31 Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 221.
32 Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 150.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

1989), p. 27-28.
34 Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 162.
35 Daniel A. Bell, “Communitarianism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,,

accessed August 2011.

The LCA Ethics Lens 610-050

36 Robert Solomon, Ethics and Excellence: Cooperation and Integrity in Business (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993) and Edwin Hartman, Organizational Ethics and the Good Life (New York: Oxford University
37 This is adapted from Craig Ihara who uses it to illustrate the nature of duty in Confucian thought, which is

widely offered as an example of a community-oriented morality. See “Are Individual Rights Necessary? A
Confucian Perspective,” in Confucian Ethics, ed., Kwong-loi Shun and David Wong (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004). For one response see Alan Strudler, “Confucian Skepticism about Workplace Rights,”
Business Ethics Quarterly, 18 (2008): 67-83.
38 Daniel A. Bell, Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context (Princeton: Princeton

University Press, 2006), ch. 3.

39 Amartya Sen, “Human Rights and Asian Values,” The New Republic, July 14, 1997, v. 217 n. 2-3, p. 33(8).
40 Thomas Donaldson, “Values in Tension: Ethics Away from Home,” Harvard Business Review, September –

October 1996.
41 Jeffrey Wattles, The Golden Rule (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
42 Badaracco, op. cit, see especially Chapter 5, “Defining Moments,” pp. 54-66.
43 Ibid., p.63, 64.
44 Other frequently cited tests include the “golden rule,” the “mirror test,” and the “sleep test.” For different

formulations of the “golden rule” in different cultures, see Sissela Bok’s entry on this topic in The Oxford
Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 321. For different
versions of the “mirror” test, see Wendy Fischman, Becca Solomon, Deborah Greenspan, and Howard Gardner,
Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas at Work (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
2004), pp. 178–179. Footnote from Lynn Sharp Paine, Ethics: A Basic Framework, HBS note 9-307-059.
45 The generality test is closely related to the “universalizability” test. See, for example, R.M. Hare, “The
Structure of Ethics and Morals,” in Essays in Ethical Theory (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1989); Marcus Singer,
Generalization in Ethics (New York, N.Y.: Knopf, 1961). Footnote from Lynn Sharp Paine, Ethics: A Basic
Framework, HBS note 9-307-059.


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