PHIL 434A (3 cr): Business and Professional Ethics


Course Description

PHILOSOPHY 434A (3) Business and Professional Ethics — Moral issues arising in the world of business and in professional practice. Among the issues to be covered are businesses’ responsibilities to employees, employees’ responsibilities to employers, honesty in business, business and the environment, international business, and the role of professional standards.
Note: Access to a computer and connection to the Internet are required.


There are no prerequisites for this course, and no previous knowledge of the subject is presupposed.

Intended Audience

The course is intended for anyone interested in the moral problems associated with modern business practice and professionalism. It should be of interest to anyone who is affected by the business world — whether as a corporate manager, employee, or customer.

Learning Outcomes

This course has two broad aims. The first is to explore the above topics, to make more clear the issues involved and the arguments that apply; the second is to provide the tools — the concepts and the vocabulary — to think critically, on a continuing basis, about the moral issues surrounding business and professional practice.

Course Overview

Philosophy 434A consists of seven modules, each with two or more subsections. This Overview provides a rough idea of what will be covered in the course.

Morality is most often thought of as a shared understanding of how we should behave when our actions affect others. Ethics is the study of morality; it is the attempt to clarify our thinking about what constitutes appropriate behaviour in a range of situations. This course is designed to give you the tools to think clearly about the moral issues that arise in the world of business.

Many courses in applied ethics have as their exclusive focus the examination of moral problems. This makes a certain amount of sense; it is usually only when we find ourselves disagreeing with each other that we come to think about ethics. But this course will attempt a more complete picture of moral life by focusing not only on the ways in which people come into conflict, but the ways in which they cooperate.

Topic Outline

The course content is divided into the following seven modules:

  1. The Basics of Moral Reasoning introduces the basics of moral reasoning. We will learn what constitutes a good argument, as well as examining the main theories concerning how we should reason about ethics.
  2. Why Business Ethics? examines such basic issues as the meaning and possibility of “Business Ethics.”
  3. Business and Outsiders examines the moral constraints on corporations in their dealings with customers and competitors.
  4. Business and Insiders switches to an examination of the moral aspects of interaction between companies and their employees.
  5. International Business explores the difficult question of what sorts of rules companies should follow when doing business in foreign countries.
  6. Business and the Environment considers questions surrounding the impact of business activities on the natural environment.
  7. Ethics and the Professions considers the moral aspects of one special sort of business, namely the provision of professional services.

Assignments and Grading

The final grade will be based on the marks received for the quiz, assignments, and final examination. You must pass the final examination with a minimum grade of 50% to receive credit for this course.

Assignment 1
Assignment 2
Assignment 3
Assignment 4
Assignment 5
Assignment 6
Assignment 7
Final Examination:

Learning Resources

The materials for this course consist of the PHIL 434A website (which contains the course author’s commentary, reading instructions, website activities, and assignments), a textbook, and assigned readings.


  • Poff, Deborah C., and Wilfred J. Waluchow, eds. Business Ethics in Canada, 4th ed. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 2004. This book is a collection of readings by philosophers, economists, business professors, and others.

Custom Course Materials:

The set of readings compiled for this course is intended to complement the textbook; you will also be directed to online readings.

PHIL434A Textbook Order Form

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