Running head: VIRTUE AND EGOISM Virtue and Egoism: Compare and Contrast of Ethical Philosophies Abstract The thesis of this essay is to evaluate the ethical philosophies of virtue and egoism. It will further magnify the similarities and contrasts of each philosophy as the principles have been witnessed from my own experiences, both personal and professional. Virtue and Egoism: Compare and Contrast of Ethical Philosophies Moral philosophies have become a cornerstone to developing organizations’ code of ethics.
As our text indicates, moral philosophy refers to the specific principles or rules that people use to decide what is right or wrong (Ferrell, Fraedrich, Ferrell, 2008). Primarily, morals are a fundamental part of a society’s culture. With this in mind, it has become essential for companies to enforce ethics programs based on the widely accepted moral values of the people within its community while keeping in consideration the unique traits of each individual. Therefore, common sense serves to point out that ethics are also employed by individuals.
This forces some questions: How have I dealt with ethical issues or dilemmas as they have come up in my own life experiences? What philosophies do I feel most represent my moral reasoning? For the purpose of this essay, I have decided to focus on two ethical philosophies: virtue and egoism. As a recently unemployed administrative professional, I have witnessed and engaged in the process of ethical decision making. Foremost, I pride myself on looking out for the welfare of people outside of myself. While I strive to achieve success in my career, I refuse to do so at the cost of others.
The guilt I would feel as a result of stomping fingers on my way up the corporate ladder is just not worth the gain of advancement. As a result, I consider myself to follow more of a virtue ethical philosophy. However, I have witnessed firsthand the ethical decision making of others in the workforce who do not harbor the same values I have. They seem to seek results which affect mainly themselves before all others despite consequences to the organization as a whole, its administration, and/or employees. I see these people as following more of an egoist philosophy.
While both of these philosophies permit pursuing ideas or actions which benefit one’s own happiness, they do so to different extents. One could argue that by using the virtue ethic philosophy, the individual seeks out the outcome which ultimately makes them feel good about themselves. Egoism is the philosophy which seeks out the best benefit to oneself also. An example found on the internet states “If I helped my friend out of trouble, I may feel happy afterwards. But is that happiness the motive for my action or just a result of it? (Kay, 1997) When I would go into work, I would look forward to my day and the tasks and challenges which lay ahead of me. With every completed task I would feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in my work. I had a strong desire to assist those that I worked with from simple tasks to complete projects. I felt a sense of duty in helping my coworkers and managers because I genuinely had the best interest of the company always at heart. If the company wasn’t there, I would miss my job terribly. I do now.
However, I feel the difference between these two philosophies lies in the motive behind the action. When I accomplished a successful day at work, I did it not only for my own betterment, but also for the benefit of the company as a whole. My integrity was intact because I did my job with honesty, truthfulness, diligence, and positivity – all values I hold to a high standard. Virtue ethics is defined as “one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character” (“Virtue Ethics”, 2007). Egoism, however, claims that each person has one ultimate aim: their own welfare (“Egoism”, 2010).
I worked with someone who always stated that she worked hard for the benefit of the company, but her actions told a different story. She would come in to work late and leave early with an excuse of meeting agents, use the company’s charge accounts to buy extravagant lunches for agents our from whom our company would benefit from gaining business, and buy “handouts” labeled with our logo to hand out. All of these things would have been deemed appropriate if her intentions had been pure. As it was, she was building her own name and status to gain better employment with more desirable perks.
While she was “marketing” for our company, she was running our company into the ground, while trumpeting that she did “all she could” for the business. Ultimately, she was seeking out the benefit of her own good alone. She did not think about the one’s she was hurting so long as she succeeded. From what I hear, she is now working with a competitor of my former company, while I and others that I worked for are out of a job. Obviously, I feel that ethics should be a large part of any organization’s practices. However, the moral importance of values differs among all of us. The human condition leaves all of us to our own standards.
While some values are maybe more desirable than others, we would all benefit from being clear in our motives behind our actions. If this girl went to our boss about being unhappy with her job, I have no doubt that he would have sought avenues for her to advance within the company or would have given her a letter of recommendation to pursue her career elsewhere. Clearly, that is not what happened, but it causes me to wonder how long-lived her success will prove to be. I continue to communicate with my former boss and associates and I do possess a letter of recommendation from my boss.
In the end, my efforts were appreciated even though I never had to draw attention to them and even though the company went under. My boss made it clear in my recommendation that the failure of the company was in no way a reflection of the service I performed to the business. I remain loyal to the philosophy of working for the betterment of not only myself, but also as it relates to those closely affected around me. At least I can go to sleep at night without feeling like I crushed another human being as if they were nothing more than a bug.
References Ferrell, O. C. , Fraedrich, J. , & Ferrell, L. (2008). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases (8th ed. ). Virtue Ethics. (2007). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved November 22, 2010, from http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/ethics-virtue/ Egoism. (2010). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/egoism Kay, C. D. (1997). Varieties of Egoism. Wofford College. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from http://webs. wofford. edu/kaycd/ethics/egoism. htm