Obstacles to ethical decision-making in the perception of ethical context
In this essay Werhane et al expand a topic she first explored in "Why do good people do bad things' (2005). The suggestion here is that it may be easy to understand evil when it is done with deliberate intent, but it is harder to explain why good managers and companies with good reputations engage in questionable or aberrant behavior. Currently, for example, Volkswagen, a company that had an excellent reputation on the basis of fine engineering and managerial excellence, has pleaded guilty to an engineering scandal that involves lying and illegal reengineering of emissions software in their diesel cars. Were these – otherwise fine – engineers and their excellent managers simply blinded by company loyalty? Were they perhaps just following orders? Or were they genuinely interested in hoodwinking their customers and the public? Werhane mediates a discussion through such possibilities exploring the generally haphazard ways in which accidents of good judgement may arise.Original publication: This is excerpted and edited from Chapter 4 of Obstacles to Ethical Decision-Making: Mental Models, Milgram and the Problem of Obedience by Patricia Werhane, Laura P. Hartman, Crina Archer, Elaine E. Englehardt and Michael S. Prichard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) pp. 63–89. Reprinted with permission.
Werhane, P. (2019)., Obstacles to ethical decision-making in the perception of ethical context, in D. Bevan & R. W. Wolfe (eds.), Systems thinking and moral imagination, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 359-377.
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