Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Society for Business Ethics picks Randolph philosophy professor's book as topic of upcoming event

A Randolph philosophy professor’s book that probes the ethics of consumer choices will be featured in a conference in February.

David Schwartz
The Society for Business Ethics chose to discuss Consuming Choices by David Schwartz in its “Author Meets Critic” forum at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association (Central Division). Schwartz will give a talk about the book, followed by a discussion by two distinguished ethics scholars, Alastair Norcross (University of Colorado – Boulder) and Richard F. Galvin (Texas Christian University).

Schwartz was invited to participate by a professor who had read the book and used it as a textbook. This attention to Consuming Choices is an honor to Schwartz.

“One of my goals in writing this book was to write something that would be reputable to the scholars but accessible to the non-scholars,” Schwartz said. “This is an indication that it’s reputable to the scholars and that people seem to be reading it and finding it useful.”

Consuming Choices guides readers through a discussion of the ethical implications of purchasing decisions. For several decades, business ethicists have discussed whether companies have moral obligations. Schwartz’s book argues that the real moral obligation belongs not to companies, but to their customers.

Consuming Choices was chosen as the topic
for the Society for Business Ethics' "Author
Meets Critic" forum in February.
“It’s up to the consumer to decide what they were comfortable buying,” Schwartz said. “The businesses are going to feel market pressure to change one way or another.”

He started writing Consuming Choices about food and farming, but his topics expanded to include the moral implications of environmental harm, poor working conditions, and animal cruelty in the supply chain for products we purchase.

He said people should be wary of extremely inexpensive items. “If it’s too good to be true,” then someone is being taken advantage of somewhere, Schwartz said.

While it may be impossible to know everything that happens in the creation of a product, consumers have an obligation not to be “willfully ignorant” of the moral implications of their products. Websites such as CorpWatch and The Good Guide can help people learn about how their products are made.

“I’m hoping that this gets on people’s radar and gets them thinking about this idea,” Schwartz said. “I’m fairly confident that if people just have some awareness of this issue, they’ll do fine with making these decisions.”