Each of us is ultimately lonely, In the end, it's up to each of us and each of us alone to figure out who we are and who we are not, and to act more or less consistently on those conclusions.
–Tom Peters, “The Ethical Debate” Ethics Digest Dec 1989, p. 2.
We are gratefully past that embarrassing period when the very title of a lecture on “business ethics” invited—no, required—those malapert responses, “sounds like an oxymoron” or “must be a very short lecture.” Today, business ethics is well-established not only in the standard curriculum in philosophy in most departments but, more impressively, it is recommended or required in most of the leading business schools in North America, and it is even catching on in Europe (one of the too rare instances of intellectual commerce in that direction). Studies in business ethics have now reached what Tom Donaldson has called “the third wave,” beyond the hurried-together and overly-philosophical introductory textbooks and collections of too-obvious concrete case studies, too serious engagement in the business world. Conferences filled half-and-half with business executives and academics are common, and in-depth studies based on immersion in the corporate world, e.g. Robert Jackall’s powerful Moral Mazes, have replaced more simple-minded and detached glosses on “capitalism” and “social responsibility.” Business ethics has moved beyond vulgar “business as poker” arguments to an arena where serious ethical theory is no longer out-of-place but seriously sought out and much in demand.