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    Moral ecology

  • Moral Ecologies: "The term moral ecology encourages us to consider the complex web of relationships and influences, the long persistence of some factors and the rapid evolution of others, the variations in strength and composition over time, the micro-ecologies that can exist within larger ones, and the multidirectional nature of causality in an ecology." From Huff et. al.
  • Moral ecologies refer to social surrounds, that is, the different groups, organizations, and societies that surround us and to which we are continually responding.
  • We interact with these social surrounds as organisms interact with their surrounding ecosystems. In fact, moral ecologies offer us roles (like ecological niches) and envelop us in complex organizational systems (the way ecosystems are composed of interacting and interrelated parts). We inhabit and act within several moral ecologies; these moral ecologies, themselves, interact. Finally, moral ecologies, like natural ecosystems, seek internal and external harmony and balance. Internally, it is important to coordinate different the constituent individuals and the roles they play. Externally, it is difficult but equally important to coordinate and balance the conflicting aims and activities of different moral ecologies.
  • Moral ecologies shape who we are and what we do. This is not to say that they determine us. But they do channel and constrain us. For example, your parents have not determined who you are. But much of what you do responds to how you have experienced them; you agree with them, refuse to question their authority, disagree with them, and rebel against them. The range of possible responses is considerable but these are all shaped by what you experienced from your parents in the past.
  • The moral ecologies module (see the link provided above) describes three different moral ecologies that are important in business: quality-, customer-, and finance-driven companies. (More "kinds" could be generated by combining these in different ways: for example, one could characterize a company as customer-driven but transforming into a quality-driven company.) Roles, strategies for dissent, assessment of blame and praise, and other modes of conduct are shaped and constrained by the overall character of the moral ecology.
  • Moral ecologies, like selves, can also be characterized in terms of the "centrality" of moral value. Some support the expression of moral value or certain kinds of moral value (like loyalty) while undermining or suppressing the expression of others (like courage or autonomy).
  • Finally, think in terms of how personality traits integrated around moral value interact with different types of moral ecology. If a moral ecology undermines virtuous conduct, what strategies are available for changing it? Or resisting it? If there are different kinds of moral exemplar, which pair best with which moral ecology? (How would a helper or craftsperson prevail in a finance-driven moral ecology like those characterized by Robert Jackall in Moral Mazes ?

    Moral skills sets

  • Moral expertise is not reducible to knowing what constitutes good conduct and doing your best to bring it about. Realizing good conduct, being an effective moral agent, bringing value into the work, all require skills in addition to a "good will." PRIMES studies have uncovered four skill sets that play a decisive role in the exercise of moral expertise.
  • Moral Imagination : The ability to project into the standpoint of others and view the situation at hand through their lenses. Moral imagination achieves a balance between becoming lost in the perspectives of others and failing to leave one's own perspective. Adam Smith terms this balance "proportionality" which we can achieve in empathy when we feel with them but do not become lost in their feelings. Empathy consists of feeling with others but limiting the intensity of that feeling to what is proper and proportionate for moral judgment.
  • Moral Creativity : Moral Creativity is close to moral imagination and, in fact, overlaps with it. But it centers in the ability to frame a situation in different ways. Patricia Werhane draws attention to a lack of moral creativity in the Ford Pinto case. Key Ford directors framed the problem with the gas tank from an economical perspective. Had they considered other framings they might have appreciated the callousness of refusing to recall Pintos because the costs of doing so (and retrofitting the gas tanks) were greater than the benefits (saving lives). They did not see the tragic implications of their comparison because they only looked at the economic aspects. Multiple framings open up new perspectives that make possible the design of non-obvious solutions.
  • Reasonableness : Reasonableness balances openness to the views of others (one listens and impartially weighs their arguments and evidence) with commitment to moral values and other important goals. One is open but not to the extent of believing anything and failing to keep fundamental commitments. The Ethics of Team Work module (see link above) discusses strategies for reaching consensus that are employed by those with the skill set of reasonableness. These help avoid the pitfalls of group-based deliberation and action.
  • Perseverance : Finally, perseverance is the "ability to plan moral action and continue on that course by responding to circumstances and obstacles while keeping ethical goals intact." Huff et. al.

Presentation on moral exemplars

Blbliography

  • Blasi, A. (2004). Moral Functioning: Moral Understanding and Personality. In D.K Lapsley and D. Narvaez (Eds.) Moral Development, Self, and Identity, (pp. 335-347). Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Blum, L. (1994). “Moral Exemplars: reflections on Schindler, the Trochmés, and others”, Moral Perception and Particularity, Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press: 65-97.
  • Colby, A., Damon, W. (1992). Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York: Free Press.
  • Flanagan, O. (1991). Varieties of moral personality: Ethics and psychological realism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Huff, C., Rogerson, S. (2005). Craft and reform in moral exemplars in computing. Paper presented at ETHICOMP2005 in Linköping, September.
  • Huff, C., Frey, W. (2005). Moral Pedagogy and Practical Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics , 11(3), 389-408.
  • Huff, C., Barnard, L., Frey, W. (2008). Good computing: a pedagogically focused model of virtue in the practice of computing (part 1), Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 6(3), 246-278.
  • Huff, C., Barnard, L., Frey, W. (2008). Good computing: a pedagogically focused model of virtue in the practice of computing (part 2), Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 6(4), 286- 316.
  • Huff, C. and Barnard, L. (2009). “Good Computing: Moral Exemplars in the Computing Profession”, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine: 47-54.
  • Jackall, R. (1988). Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Johnson, M. (1993). Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 199-202.
  • Lawrence, A. and Weber, J. (2010). Business and Society: Stakeholders Ethics and Public Policy, 13th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Pritchard, M. (1998). "Professional Responsibility: Focusing on the Exemplary," in Science and Engineering Ethics, 4: 215-234.
  • Urmson, J.O. (1958). “Saints and Heroes.” Essays in Moral Philosophy, A.I. Melden, ed., Seattle: University of Washington Press: 198-216.
  • Werhane, P. (1999). Moral Imagination and Management Decision Making. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 93-96.

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Source:  OpenStax, Corporate governance. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10396/1.10
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