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Philosophy, Business and Society (Level 5)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor and tutor: Professor Hallvard Lillehammer
  • Assessment: a 750-word essay (25%), 1000-word essay (35%) and short-answer, take-home examination (40%)

Module description

This module is about the ethics of organisations: public and private; domestic and international. The aim of the module is to understand some of the basic ethical concepts in professional life. Whether we think so or not, business managers, civil servants, advertisers, sales representatives and employers are all practical philosophers. They may not think explicitly in terms of philosophical arguments and theories, but every strategic decision they make is based on philosophical assumptions that can be articulated and assessed.

This module examines some of the central philosophical issues that arise in the course of professional life, including truth, manipulation, trust, freedom, integrity, responsibility and discrimination. No prior philosophical training is required to take this module. Each topic will be introduced without theoretical prerequisites, and the discussion of each topic will be illustrated with concrete examples from actual professions and real life.

Indicative module syllabus

  • The ethics of professional detachment
  • Thinking ethically in a competitive environment
  • Nepotism and discrimination in professional life
  • The ethics of advertising
  • The values of trust in professional life
  • Business and integrity
  • Individual, collective and corporate agency
  • Social responsibility and business value

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand philosophical debates and arguments in some central areas of the philosophy of business and professional ethics
  • deploy relevant philosophical concepts and distinctions
  • understand one or more key  theories in the philosophy of business and professional ethics
  • formulate philosophical questions with precision and clarity
  • support or challenge philosophical theories by constructing objections and defences.