The Divine Command Theory, a review of two journals

Week One Journal

Reflection Prompt #1

The summary of the three of the ethical theories that are explained in Chapter 1 of Introduction to Business Ethics Fieser & Moseley (2012) include;

The Divine Command Theory (DCT) essentially teaches that a thing (i.e., action, behavior, choice, etc.) is good because God commands it to be done or evil because God forbids it from being done. Thus, to say that it is good to love our neighbors is semantically equivalent to saying God commands us to love our neighbors. Similarly, it is evil to commit murder because God forbids murder

Moral Objectivism: The view that what is right or wrong doesn’t depend on what anyone thinks is right or wrong. That is, the view that the ‘moral facts’ are like ‘physical’ facts in that what the facts are does not depend on what anyone thinks they are.

Objectivist theories tend to come in two sorts:

(i) Duty Based Theories (or Deontological Theories): Theories that claim that what determines whether an act is morally right or wrong is the kind of act it is.  

E.g., Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) thought that all acts should be judged according to a rule he called the Categorical Imperative: “Act only according to that maxim [i.e., rule] whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” That is, he thought the only kind of act one should ever commit is one that could be willed to be a universal law.

(ii) Consequentialist Theories (or Teleological Theories): Theories that claim that what determines whether an act is right or wrong are its consequences.  

3) Moral Relativism: The view that what is morally right or wrong depends on what someone thinks. (To which the claim that opinions vary substantially about right and wrong is usually added.) We can think of this position as coming in two flavors:

(a) Subjectivism: What is morally right or wrong for you depend on what you think is morally right or wrong, i.e., right or wrong is relative to the individual. The ‘moral facts’ may alter from person to person.

(b) Conventionalism: What is morally right or wrong depends on what the society we are dealing with thinks, i.e., morality depends on the conventions of the society we are concerned with. The ‘moral facts’ may alter from society to society.

 How organizations would function were they to adopt those ethical principles

Much of morality in business falls under the rubric of honesty. Honesty means being in accord with reality. Honesty is basic to the structure of human relationships in virtually all contexts. Dishonesty is self-defeating because it involves being in conflict with realty. Morality in business involves objectively recognizing and dealing with customers, employees, creditors, stockholders, and others as autonomous rational individuals with their particular goals and desires. The trader principle should govern the course of all human interactions because voluntary value-for-value relationships are consonant with human nature (Brigley, 1995).

  The above ethical philosophies can lead to the achievement of values. When one’s context is reduced to business, virtue theory contends that pursuing virtuous principles, strategies, and actions can result in firms realizing their values including their mission, purpose, profit potential, and other goals. Virtuous employees tend to carry out their roles in a competent manner that is congruent with the firm’s goals. Virtues are instrumental in allowing a person to act to gain values. When business people conform to Objectivist, they increase the likelihood of achieving their values and goals. Ethical philosophies stress the importance of each individual employee being able to make contributions of value. Valid virtue concepts are required to describe what it means to be an excellent director, leader, manager, or employee. To be successful, a business needs to espouse a set of virtues that are reality-based, non-contradictory, integrated, and comprehensive.

Reflection Prompt #2

The three of the punishments that corporations undergo when they have acted unethically (Fieser & Moseley, 2012) are;

1. Fines: This type of punishment is the most common. It is when a corporation breaks the law or an offense. It is then charged an amount of money that can be crippling as to serve a purpose to not do it again. When a corporation undergoes this type of punishment it serves a purpose to deter the company from acting unethically, but can also have several side effects.

2. Equity fine. This is fairly similar to the normal fine except it is shares of the company in question. It serves it purpose to give away market value which can be much more valuable than money. This in itself acts as a huge deterrent. This form of corporate punishment is not yet practiced in the United States, but the Scottish parliament has been debating legislation allowing equity fines.

3. Corporate Shaming. This type of punishment can be very severe. It is when a governing body requires the company in question to make a very public, embarrassing announcement. This can be extremely disastrous for not only the company but innocent workers. By doing this it will deter fellow companies that do not wish to lose reputation then eventually profits and revenue

The Three threats to running an ethical corporation according to Fieser & Moseley (2012) are:

The Profit Motive: This is when the motive of company to make profits could conflict with its sense of social responsibility. Organization stakeholders expect to see a return on their investments, and the corporate officers have a fiduciary duty to oblige them, to the point that the officers might neglect the interests of all other stakeholders.

Strategic misrepresentation, which is the intentional and systematic distortion or misstatement of facts for the purpose of gaining a financial advantage. Most executives are compelled from time to time to be deceptive when negotiating with dealers, labor unions, government officials, and even other departments within their own companies

Groupthink, which implies the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a manner, which discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

Finally, I think that there is no need for corporations to function by the same codes of morality that individual people in society have to abide by. This because unethical corporate behavior may be the responsibility of an unethical individual, but it often also reveals a company culture that is ethically lax. 33 Maintaining a positive ethical climate is always challenging, but it is especially complex for organizations with international activities. Different cultures and countries may have different standards of behavior, and managers have to decide when relativism is appropriate, rather than adherence to firm standards.

Prompt 3# Organizations

For-Profit Organization:


Not-For-Profit Organization

Red Cross


Brigley, S. (1995). Business ethics in context: Researching with case studies. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(3), 219. Retrieved from the ProQuest database.

Fieser, J. & Moseley, A. (2012). Introduction to business ethics. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc

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