Applied Ethics: Remembering Patrick Primeaux: Volume 8


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Peter Bowden's background is in institutional strengthening. Formerly Professor of Administrative Studies at the University of Manchester, he has been Advisor and Consultant to a number of international agencies including the World Bank and the United Nations. He has, since 2003, used this background in teaching and research on ethical practices. Currently Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy and Lecturer in Ethics in the Faculty of Engineering, at the University of Sydney, he is also Secretary to the Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics. His edited book, Applied Ethics, is to come out by mid-2012.

This volume is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Primeaux. Of your editors, Michael knew him well, Howard knew his work. We both recognise his enormous contribution. Patrick was a very special individual who was unfortunately with us for far too short a time, but who in that time made a very unique contribution. The first three essays in this issue comprise a mini-festschrift issue to honour Patrick. They are by his American colleagues and good friends who knew Patrick well. A mini-festschrift seems particularly germane to Patrick. The festschrift or commemorative volume is deeply rooted in the culture of the Germanic universities, and Patrick, although having many attributes, could certainly not be construed as Germanic. We have no doubt that he would be as honoured by a mini-festschrift issue as he would be embarrassed by a full festschrift issue. The other essays are the result of the Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics 18th annual conference which was held in June 2011 at the University of Tasmania. The authors of these essays are academics in Australian universities who might not have known Patrick, but, as is discussed below, their essays reflect Patrick's contribution to applied ethics. There seems something very fitting about that conference being held at the University of Tasmania because their campus is in Hobart which is as far south as Australia goes. Patrick often spoke of visiting Australia but always ultimately dismissed it as too long a flight. It would, admittedly, have been a particularly long flight for Patrick who was a very heavy smoker. Nonetheless, we have no doubt that if Patrick had been able to embark upon the flight to Hobart and attended the conference, he would have enjoyed it. As it was his spirit was very much with us and pervaded many of our discussions about applied ethics.

When Fr. Patrick Primeaux, S.M. and I set out to edit Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, our guiding light was that research in business ethics should serve to promote the search for meaning in organizations. Further, we understood and wanted to promote the notion that organizational ethics (and the ideology of organizations) directly impacts individual ethics and that the reverse is equally true. Oversimplifying, we believed that there exists a dialectical relationship between organizational culture and personal character. This is a theme explored in many of the articles we published over the years in our annual series, and it is a theme Pat wrote about, especially in his book Reinterpreting the American Dream: Persons and Ethics.

Patrick Primeaux realized that the ethical story is far more complicated than the tale of individual responsibility we typically spin for our students. Pat brought pop culture (e.g. Bruce Springsteen) (Primeaux, 1996) into business ethics precisely because he knew that culture shapes each of us in myriad ways, creating habits, expectations and outlooks we then bring to the workplace. In his book Reinterpreting the American Dream: Persons and Ethics, Pat showed how American culture encourages us to concentrate all of our energy into work and the pursuit of wealth and distinction (Primeaux, 2000). Pat also realized that institutions knowingly or unwittingly shape the kind of experiences individuals have and that these experiences directly inform our consciousness and, hence, our behaviour within organizations (Primeaux, 1992).

A recent novel – A. D. Miller's Snowdrops – does a wonderful job of exploring psychic and cultural dynamics and in the process raises some troubling questions of where responsibility for wrongdoing lies. This essay uses Miller's book to explore from a psychological viewpoint how and why employees who are sent abroad by multinational corporations (MNCs) may get involved in local corruption; to show why personal integrity requires external support if agents are to be able to do the right thing; and to raise the issue of what sort of responsibilities MNCs have to the employees whom they send abroad.

Patrick Primeaux's life was one of exemplary service in a wide range of fields. The Marists can point to years of productive service in their order. Generations of students know the impact he had on their lives. The St. John's University community can testify regarding his contributions to their institution, and organizational ethics researchers can point to his influence on research and pedagogy.

Many academics have careers with achievements in research, teaching, and service. What made Father Primeaux truly remarkable, however, was that he also expanded the business ethics field itself. Business ethics has traditionally been a difficult area in which to establish a research niche. Pat's contributions to research and pedagogy, and particularly his efforts regarding the Vincentian Ethics Conferences opened doors for young business ethicists, which was enormously beneficial to those academics and increased the quality and quantity of business ethics research.

This chapter examines Patrick Premeaux's groundbreaking contributions to business ethics teaching and research, and to demonstrate the impact those contributions have had on his fellow academicians. The first section outlines the significance of Primeaux's efforts. The second section examines Pat's contributions to business ethics research and education. The third section discusses the role the Vincentian Ethics Conferences (VEC) have played in improving the quantity and quality of business ethics research, while the fourth section illustrates the impact Pat's efforts had on my own career. The fifth section summarizes and concludes the paper.

Although contemporary governance structures and managerial practice are replete with the language of ethics and values, there is good reason to think that this conceals a much deeper loss of genuine ethical commitment within public and private sector organisations. This loss of commitment is both expressed in as well as underpinned by a number of factors that are identified here in terms of individualism, proceduralism, genericism and prudentialism. Rather than serving to counter it, the disciplines of applied and professional ethics often appear as contributing to the ‘demise of ethics’ that seems to threaten.

There is much discussion about the moral standing of animals and the scope of human responsibilities to the more-than-human world. As yet, there has been little discussion about whether cross-species collectives (such as a human and a dog) can constitute composite or plural agents analogous to those proposed in epistemic and moral cases. If so, fruitful new ways of understanding how we live and work with animal companions will likely emerge. This chapter takes a first step towards those new understandings by arguing that cross-species collectives are possible.

In this study we consider the role of business management in delivering good in society, from the perspective of the philosophical work of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Alfred North Whitehead. We find that Whitehead's process explanations of the nature of experience and consciousness articulate meaningfully with Smith's idea of ‘self-love’ and Marx's conceptualisation of ‘rich-experience’. As a result, we argue that business practice must reconnect with society in a more appropriate understanding of a good as something beyond a mere economic entity. Using principles of process thought, we make recommendations as to how this might be achieved in daily management practice.

The reasons for teaching an explicit ethical component in business courses are reinforced in contemporary contexts where governments have ceded roles to private organisations. However, new approaches to business ethics teaching are needed that take into account this changed environment. This chapter argues that the recent controversy surrounding Mark Moore's theory of public value (1995) invites an investigation into the use of his theory in courses spanning business management and public sector management. Further, we argue that public value incorporates several approaches to corporate social responsibility, as well as providing a theory of liberal government and an account of virtue ethics which are strong teaching tools.

In this chapter, we propose and discuss a framework to organise some of the individual difference constructs which have appeared consistently in the business ethics literature. Although many constructs have appeared in both conceptual and empirical work in the major business ethics journals, there has been little effort to categorise such constructs in accord with recognised frameworks. In our work, we rely on the industrial/organisational psychology literature to provide a starting point for categorising individual differences. Using the business ethics literature, we then develop a framework composed of three broad categories: cognitive skills, moral volition and personal values. We then provide examples within each category of the framework, and map these examples onto subcategories under each of the major categories. Finally, we organise the complete framework into a comprehensive table and we discuss several implications that may inform future research.

This chapter argues that the dead are stakeholders and that they should be regarded as such. In making that argument I will be exploring the claims of the philosopher Bob Brecher (2002) that we have real obligations to the dead because they made us what we are, if they were a part of our community. Indeed, Brecher (2002) argues that the dead never ceased ‘to be members of a particular community’ and therefore ‘the dead can be said to have interests’. This chapter explores the validity of their interests as stakeholders. Indeed, I argue that if they are not regarded as stakeholders, corporate management will overlook their interests. Admittedly, corporate managers might seem mindful of their interests. However, if they are not conceived of as stakeholders, such managers will not be primarily concerned with their interests, but with how other stakeholders might perceive those interests. In attempting to satisfy these other stakeholders’ perceptions of those interests, the actual interests of the dead could be overlooked. But that relies on the dead being legitimate stakeholders. To substantiate that status I therefore argue in this chapter that the dead are stakeholders, but also that their status as a stakeholder now that they are dead is dependent on their behaviour when they were alive, given Brecher's (2002) insistence as to them being a part of that community.

In arguing this, I utilize a recent article by Rosenbloom and Althaus (2010). I argue that the interest of the dead they mention in their article would best be served if they are considered as stakeholders. Indeed, that because Rosenbloom and Althaus (2010) do not consider those dead as stakeholders, their interests are never considered. I acknowledge though that being stakeholders relies on them remaining a part of that community (Brecher, 2002), which I argue they were a part of. If they do not remain a part of that community, I cannot argue that they are stakeholders. I therefore consider a historical argument which if accepted would prove that the dead which Rosenbloom and Althaus (2010) consider had not remained a part of that community and therefore cannot be accepted as stakeholders. This chapter rigorously examines the validity of that historical argument as to the behaviour of those dead when they were living, and whether their behaviour negates any claims as to them being stakeholders. This chapter completely refutes any arguments as to these dead being involved in such activities which would have removed them from their community and thus from being stakeholders. It furthermore argues that successfully rebutting such arguments is essential to my argument that the dead I am considering are stakeholders.

This chapter explores the question of harm to others, either inflicting it or alleviating it, and whether it is the overriding determinant of ethical conduct. The purpose behind this exploration lies in the benefits that a dominant measure, or perhaps even a single measure, could bring to ethical behaviour in our companies and government agencies. A single measure bypasses the multiplicity of competing and conflicting ethical theories on what constitutes ethical or unethical behaviour.

The chapter points out the problems arising from the conflicting moral theories, and the benefits that would arise for ordinary people if we could simplify the process. It then documents those moral philosophers who assign a high ethical priority to avoiding the harming of others, or redressing harm already incurred.

One problem is that harm can be defined widely. The possibilities of harm in the future, of offending others, or failing to respect others are examples. We also frequently face a choice between two harms. Numerous examples include business or government decisions which will be of advantage to one party, but of disadvantage to another. Analytical techniques to help make these choices are of limited applicability.

Helping others is part of the harm scenario, for we almost invariably help them overcome some possible or actual harm they are facing. But such thinking is normally considered as an altruistic act, not avoiding harm. A more universal approach is a three-part guideline ‘do-no-harm/correct for or prevent harm/do good’.

Father Patrick Primeaux has written an intriguing and ambitious book. Furthermore, unlike many other new books of this genre, which often do little more than re-visit the past expositions of other theorists, his book strives to make both a new and unique contribution to the study of business ethics. In reviewing such a book, it is therefore worth noting Jung's observation that ‘no book that makes an essentially new contribution to knowledge enjoys the privilege of being thoroughly understood’ (Jung, 1989, p. xiv). Having thus at the outset, rendered some excuse for whatever shortcomings of mine might follow, I will proceed.

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Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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