Please review Alan Greenspan’s 1999 Harvard Commencement Address (the speech can also be found here), and answer the following question.
Do you think Greenspan is being realistic or naive about the possibility of business ethics?
Important: You should consider Greenspan’s argument on the “value added” of honesty and integrity. What does Greenspan mean when saying that companies add it their balance sheets?
You are not obligated to agree with Mr. Greenspan, but you are expected to consider his point of view, state a clear opinion, and support that opinion with convincing arguments.
2. In-depth Assignment – Please choose one of the following assignments:
Option A. Shattered Glass Film
This film is available on Netflix DVD, Amazon (where it can be purchased cheaply or rented via Amazon instant video), and likely at your local library, as well as other online movie providers. After watching the film, please answer the following questions.
2a. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being excellent), how do you rate the film? Explain your answer.
2b. In what ways were Stephen Glass (as depicted in the film) a “flawed person?” How could he have corrected or compensated for those flaws?
Option B. Iowa Supreme Court case
Please read this decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in an attorney discipline case.
2a. Isn’t plagiarism a “victimless crime?” Why should judges care if attorneys submit plagiarized legal briefs or motions? Please explain your answer.
2b. Attorney Peter Cannon was punished by the court and by the attorney disciplinary board. Do you think these punishments (taken as a whole) were too lenient, too severe, or about right? Please explain your answer.
2c. The Iowa Supreme Court referred to another case involving attorney plagiarism (Iowa Supreme Court Board of Professional Ethics & Conduct v. Lane). In that case, the punishment for attorney Lane (suspension of his license to practice) was more severe than the punishment imposed on attorney Cannon. What distinction did the court make between these two cases? Do you agree with the court’s reasoning?
2d. The state of Florida requires “personal appearances before the [disciplinary] board for public reprimands for disciplined lawyers” [italics added]. Do you think this kind of public shaming is too harsh?
3. Assignment by Interest – #1 – Please select and complete the assignment that interests you the most.
Option A. Alphabet’s Code of Conduct
Read Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) Code of Conduct and answer the following questions:
3a. What are your general impressions of Alphabet’s / Google’s Code of Conduct? Why does Alphabet have such a code?
3b. What do you think of Alphabet’s / Google’s main message: “Don’t be evil” (or at other times “Do the right thing”)?
3c. What suggestions would you give to Google’s / Alphabet’s founders about the code?
Option B. Templeton Foundation
Read any 3 essays from the Templeton Foundation’s “Does the free market corrode moral character” and answer the following questions.
3a. Which readings did you select? Why?
3b. In your opinion, does the free market corrode moral character? Please explain your answer and refer to your chosen videos or readings.
3c. Are there any values or virtues necessary for free economies to flourish? If so, what are they and how can they be fostered?
Option C. On Being Happy, Healthy, and Ethical
Read “On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession” from the Vanderbilt Law Review and answer the following questions.
3a. What are Schiltz’s main findings about the health and reported happiness of lawyers? What are the major causes? Be specific
3b. Please read Section III.C. on pages 915-920 and comment on the following quotation. Do you find it convincing? Why or why not?
“That is why, no matter which big firm you join, there is a good chance that working at the firm will make you unhealthy, an even better chance that it will make you unhappy, and an almost 100% chance that it will make you unethical…” (p. 920)
3c. Can a lawyer be successful and ethical at the same time? What steps will you take to achieve this in your career?
Option D. AMA Code of Ethics
Read the AMA Code of Medical Ethics and answer the following questions.
3a. Why do you think the AMA publishes this Code? Why not teach medical ethics simply through word of mouth?
3b. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Code?
3c. Do you have any suggestions to improve the Code? Please suggest at least one specific change or addition.
4. Assignment by Interest – #2 – Please select and complete the assignment that interests you the most.
Option A. Life at the Death Camps
Please review the assigned excerpts from An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps by Terrence Des Pres and respond to the following question.
Does Terrence Des Pres think the human moral sense is an idealistic illusion or an evolutionary survival strategy? Please explain your answer and whether you agree or disagree with Des Pres’ analysis. Cite at least one numbered paragraph for support.
Option B. Lincoln’s Great Depression
Please read the following article, titled Lincoln’s Great Depression by Joshua Wolf Shenk and respond to the following question.
What is the thesis of Joshua Wolf Shenk’s article about Abraham Lincoln? Identify three of Lincoln’s coping strategies (skills, habits, or ways of thinking) that helped him use depression to achieve his greatness.
Option C. Darwin’s Eyes Exercise
Please review the following exercise called the Darwin’s Eyes Exercise and respond to the following questions.
4a. According to scientist Michael Tomasello, why do humans have ”whites in our eyes” whereas apes do not?
4b. What are the implications for human cooperation as a survival strategy? Is this consistent with a ”survival of the fittest” view of the world?
Option D. The Righteous Mind
Please listen to minutes 32:00 to 41:00 from the following podcast (feel free to the whole thing!): The Righteous Mind with Jonathan Haidt at EconTalk, and answer the following questions:
4a. What does Jonathan Haidt mean when he says that human morality is 90% chimp and 10% bee?
4b. Based on the discussion in the podcast, what does 10% bee have to do with “people going to football games in sub-zero weather painting their faces and taking their shirts off”?
4c. What are the implications for human cooperation? In your view, how powerful is our inner chimp versus our inner bee?
5. Assignment by Interest – #3 – Please select and complete the assignment that interests you the most.
Option A. Pleasure v. Happiness
The Declaration of Independence refers to the “pursuit of happiness.” Should the word “pleasure” be substituted for “happiness”? Why or why not?
You may find the discussion of this topic in the Sample Dialogue: A Case of Cheating to be helpful.
Option B. Help Henry Exercise
Please review the University of Maryland’s Help Henry Exercise (reading all parts) and respond to the following questions.
a. If you were Henry, would you hire Packer or Stacker? Why?
b. How does this hiring decision relate to themes from the Alan Greenspan speech and the value of honesty and integrity in the workplace?
Option C. Friendship, Fidelity, and Academic Integrity
Please review Friendship, Fidelity, and Academic Integrity by Gary Pavela and respond to the following questions.
5a. What qualities do you value in your friends?
5b. Do your friends help make you a “better” person? If so, identify the qualities that make you “better.”
5c. Do you try to help your friends become better people? If so, how?
6. Statement of Gratitude
Please read Book One of the Meditations of Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Then write a concise statement of gratitude (400 words or less) identifying the ethical and intellectual debts you owe to family members, teachers, friends, and the broader society as a whole. Fictitious names are permitted, but the statement of gratitude should be genuine.
7. A Good Life
How is a good life defined, and what is your plan to achieve it? Please refer to themes from the assigned readings to support your answer.
Important: Not making reference to the assigned themes or readings in your answer to this question may result in requiring revisions to your seminar answers.
Remember to reference the readings in your essay responses to demonstrate that you have read and understood the material.
There are no length requirements, but high quality answers are expected. The main aim of the seminar is to encourage serious thought and reflection.