The Meaning of Moral “Justification”

“Justification” in terms of business ethics can be portrayed in two different ways. In business ethics, do the means justify the ends, or do the ends justify the means?

Is it better to have a set of rules telling you what you ought to do in a particular situation, or should one worry more about how things are going to end up and do anything to reach that goal?

Let’s take an example. John ran a medicine business in California, USA. His herbal product used to stop nausea and vomiting for chemo patients. California regulators had allowed his business entity, but federal agencies had not approved it. Therefore, selling it on national level was breaking the law. On the other hand, not selling could consign his clients to suffering. So, when federal agents came knocking on his door, he had to make a decision.

●      If the means justify the ends − If he follows the rules no matter what the consequences are, then the agents ask John directly whether he is selling the medicine and the ethical action would be to admit it.

●      If the ends justify the means − If your ethical interest focuses on the consequences of an act instead of what you actually do, then the ethics change. Therefore, when agents ask him whether he is selling, he has a reason to lie.

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