CLASS MEETS: TTh, 9:30-10:45, 102 O'Connell Hall

Dr. Mark Smillie, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Office : 142 St. Charles ; Phone : Ext 5416;
Fall 2007 Office Hours : M-Th:4:00-5:00pm, and by appointment.
Course website:
See also: 


Business ethics is the moral analysis of business activity and practices. In business ethics, we consider business actions and decisions in the light of moral principles and values, and ask whether ethical motives in business activity would make business better and more successful.

Among the considerations included in this course is the question about whether any ethical values are already implied in business and market activity, or whether introducing ethics into business will cause fundamental changes to business. In addition, we want to assess how business does and should affect our individual and social lives, and ask what role business and its values (could) play in our society as a whole. Further, we will examine issues and conflicts that typically arise in business that have moral aspects to them, such as the way employers treat their employees, employees their employers, and the ways businesses treat their competitors, their customers, their society, and even their environment. Finally, we will consider the practical question of whether a (morally) good life can be lived by those who wholehearted devote themselves to business success. These matters all center on questions about human action and the good life.

Our principle focus in this course will be the understanding and appreciation of a way of life in which money and profits play an important but certainly not exclusive role. At times this course will engage in constructive criticism of business life and practices; however its predominant focus will not be business' failures or evils, but rather its purposes and roles in society, the activities these purposes and roles define, the relationship these have and should have to our social community and to each of our lives.


The general goals of this course are:


Students taking this course will learn to


There are no formal prerequisites for Business Ethics, although students should have good reading and writing skills, and some ability and willingness to consider ethical issues and different sides of an issue. Skills to be developed in the course include analysis of argumentative texts, critical assessment of rational positions, reasoning and rational defense of views, and relating general ideas to particular situations. Business Ethics fulfills one of Carroll College 's CORE requirements in philosophy. (Though fulfilling CORE requirements, Business Ethics was designed as part of the philosophy program, and fulfills requirements in that and other majors. The workload in this course is designed to be comparable to any other course at Carroll.)


This course will employ many different formats, including lecture presentation by the instructor, directed group discussion, in-class activities, including role-playing activities and prepared debate. These formats will be purposively varied throughout the semester.


For my courses this year, I will be utilizing a “classroom management system” (CMS) called Moodle. This is my (and Carroll's!) first experience with Moodle or any CMS, so I am still learning and experimenting somewhat with the system (or you and I will be experimenting with it together ). I think Moodle can bring many good things to courses at Carroll, and I hope that you will agree with me!

Moodle stands for Modular Object Oriented Developmental Learning Environment. In short, a CMS like Moodle is basically a way to add web technology to a course. Moodle will allow you and me to do many things on the web that I believe will help your learning experiences, improve our classroom (or “face-to-face”) experiences, and simplify some of the “management end” of the course for me. Just about everything you will do on Moodle will be graded in some way. Moodle will even record your grades, and allow you to see your grade in the course at any time!

If you are a returning Carroll student, you may be familiar with the online “bulletin boards” that many professors use to post materials and even collect assignments from students. Moodle does all this, and in addition, Moodle allows for forum discussions, chats, surveys, collaborative assignments and quizzes. We may have some quizzes in this course online—you will take them on your computers outside of class. There will also be forums, collaborative assignments, and other activities that you will be required to complete outside of class, in tandem with your reading assignments, to prepare for our classes. I hope that you will find these activities useful and enjoyable as well. You will have opportunities to give me feedback on Moodle as the course progresses, so please take advantage of that too!

To access Moodle, go to , or use the icon on the “students” page of the Carroll website. You log on with your Carroll ID and password. After logon, Moodle should take you right to a list of your classes (those that are using Moodle—probably only this one for most of you!) and you go from there. I have divided the course into weeks. The assignments will be listed in the week along with tests and any readings that I have on-line for you. You will need to check on moodle regularly to find these assignments. 


WRITTEN ESSAYS/CASE STUDIES (35% of final grade)

Three written pieces, 3-5 pages in length, analyzing ethics and values in business. Topics to be assigned by the professor.

MOODLE ACTIVITIES (20% of final grade)

Various kinds of online assignments—participation in forums, tests, collaborative assignments. See the moodle website for details (instructions and deadlines) about these each week.

DEBATE (10% of final grade)

Each student will participate in one pre-arranged, in-class debate, as a member of an affirmative or negative debate team. Teams will be assigned after first class meeting. Directions and grading criteria for the debates are online.

EXAMINATIONS (35% of final grade)

•  Quizzes on the reading assignments during the semester. Worth 25% of the final course grade.
•  Final exam. This is an essay-style exam on the course material, asking you to analyze, synthesize and evaluate the material from the course. Offered during the time scheduled by the registrar. The final exam is worth 10% of the final course grade.



( Available in Book Store )

Hartman , Laura P. and Joe DesJardins, Business Ethics: Decision-Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility. McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-07-313686-B

Arthur, John. Studying Philosophy: A Guide for the Perplexed. Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004. ISBN: 0-13-183942-X

Other reading materials will be on moodle.



  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Ethics and Business
    1. Why be ethical in business?
    2. How might ethical decision-making work?
    3. Corporate Culture and Ethical Leadership
  3. Corporate Social Responsibility: The Role of Business in Society
    1. Case study on Walmart
  4. Employer/employee rights and duties (Internal Issues)
    1. Sexual harassment
    2. Technology and Privacy
  5. Ethical Issues with Consumers (External Issues)
    1. Marketing and Sales
    2. Advertising
  6. Larger Issues: The Environment and Society, Corporate Governance, Accounting and Finance Business


I welcome everyone to the course. I’m glad you’ve chosen this class, and I promise to do my best to make it meaningful, useful, and enjoyable. Please feel comfortable giving me any comments or suggestions about the progress of the course as we go along. I am happy to make any adjusts to the course that I can.