Handbook on Ethics and Marketing
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Handbook on Ethics and Marketing

Edited by Alexander Nill

Exploring both the theoretical and the applied aspects of the role ethics plays in marketing, this Handbook analyzes key issues in order to advance our understanding and provide an overview of the state of the art in this vital field.
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Chapter 6: The trouble with marketing ethics . . .

John F. Gaski


This chapter traces some seemingly inescapable theoretical and practical problems associated with normative marketing ethics. First, the background and origin of the issues in the broader field of moral philosophy are presented. The key concern is the multiplicity of extant ethical systems or perspectives that leads to ambiguous prescriptive guidance and even conflicting norms. Then manifestation of the problems in marketing ethics per se is discussed and illustrated. Coherent resolution is proposed. Finally the related domain of corporate social responsibility is seen to compound the difficulty with some similarly problematic indications, which the author also attempts to overcome. Ethics – what a beautiful concept! Defined simply as the principles guiding morally right action (Baylis 1958, p. 3; Webster’s 1965), what a pleasant, attractive, euphonic, emotionally agreeable, feel-good idea indeed. By its very definition (including charged language such as ‘right’ and ‘moral’), the construct of ethics is positioned toward the positive end of human nature’s affective values axis. Surely no one could object to such a noble quality. Ethics may even merit recognition as a crucial force underlying civilized human social development. And ethics must also be a concept with much intrinsic depth and metaphysical heft or it probably would not have captivated philosophers for the past three millennia or so.

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