The Prince

Summary

The excerpts from Machiavelli’s The Prince, are essentially a ‘how-to’ manual for taking over a country or territory through military force and political maneuvering. While the language and literal meaning may be outdated, the applicability of the essential philosophy to the present day corporate landscape is uncanny. With this in mind, the excerpts appear as a guide to ‘cutthroat’ business tactics. Questions about power, influence, and leadership are inevitable, as the philosophy that is presented pushes the boundaries of morality and ethics towards a simple yet paramount conclusion: the end justifies the means.

Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life

Summary

Sissela Bok's examination of deceit in our society begins by identifying what she calls a culture of toleration. Essentially, this means that we put up with lies that are ultimately unnecessary and harmful. She lists the fundamental changes that need to be made by individuals, businesses, governments, and educational institutions, making the point in each case that lying is in fact a choice, not just a circumstance. She also acknowledges however, that the benefits of lying often outweigh the benefits of honesty. And it is this underlying issue that she points a finger at, illuminating the path back to a society based on truth, in which trust and integrity can both exist and be rewarded.

Can a Corporation Have a Conscience?

Summary

In Can a Corporation Have a Conscience?, Kenneth E. Goodpaster and John B. Mathews Jr argue that our concepts of individual morality should be applied to corporations. They begin by defining morality as respect and logical thought, before proposing the projection of such moral values onto corporations. They systematically attempt to prove that corporations are analogous to individuals, and that moral values, although often considered alien in the corporate world, are just as valid a projection as economic values and goals. Their exploration of the issue delves into the current trains of thought regarding interference in corporate business, as well as several common objections to the concept of moral corporations.

The Parable of the Sadhu

Summary

During a hike in Nepal, the author Bowen H. McCoy,  and a group of mountaineers elect to clothe and give provisions to a hypothermic holy man, but not to care for him further. The article moves on from the details of the story to highlight several moral dilemmas and ask questions of both the author's moral responsibility and the responsibility of the group in such a situation. The underlying question of whether or not individual and group ethics are the same is then applied to the business world. McCoy makes it clear that even though ethics are difficult, common values and a corporate culture based on thoughtful personal values, are integral to the success and health of every corporation.

The Insufficiency of Honesty

Summary

In this essay, Stephen L. Carter explains the differences between honesty and integrity. He portrays honesty as an important virtue that is all too often used as an excuse for actions that lack integrity. Using examples from everyday life, he portrays the philosophical dilemmas that face people who desire to live with integrity. Carter breaks the concept of integrity down into three key points: discernment, informed action, and verbalizing one's intent. This means that understanding a belief or idea, acting on that belief, and telling others that you are acting on that belief, are all integral parts of integrity. The essay examines the motives behind actions, and attempts to create a sounding board of tests for our own concepts of integrity. Carter also analyses the six virtues that he believes we all hold in esteem, as well as the cultural link between contracts and responsibility. His challenging conclusion is simple: while important, honesty is not integrity.

Plato's The Republic, Book II: The Ring of Gyges

Summary

Plato creates a dialogue between Glaucon and Socrates as a way of exploring the origins of justice, and the arguments for and against laws and rules in society. But Plato also delves further, probing his characters' consciences for reasons that individuals should act fairly towards each other, and ultimately, act justly for the sake of justice. Using a story about a magic ring that grants the bearer the power of invisibility, Plato's Glaucon (playing the devil's advocate) demonstrates to Socrates, and of course to us, that not only does everyone want to break the law and act unfairly, but that one who does may actually be much happier than someone who doesn't. And it's this challenge that begs an answer to one central question: why pursue justice at all?