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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2004

John Hooker
Pages 73-85

The Case Against Business Ethics Education
A Study in Bad Arguments

Several popular arguments against teaching business ethics are examined: (a) the ethical duty of business people is to maximize profit within the law, whence the irrelevance of ethics courses (the Milton Friedman argument); (b) business people respond to economic and legal incentives, not to ethical sentiments, which means that teaching ethics will have no effect; (c) one cannot study ethics in any meaningful sense anyway, because it is a matter of personal preference and is unsusceptible to rational treatment; (d) moral character is formed in early childhood, not while sitting in ethics class; and (e) business students see no motivation to study ethics and will not take it seriously. The mistakes and confusion that underlie these arguments are exposed.