Can Believing in Your Products Be Unethical?

business_ethics_highlights_2The piece below talks about the ethics of belief. Can it be wrong — morally wrong — to believe something without sufficient evidence? Normally we think of unjustified beliefs as being foolish, unwise. Can they be immoral, too?

The most important application of this to the realm of business ethics, perhaps, has to do with believing in the quality or effectiveness of your products and services. Consider a company selling investment opportunities. Let’s imagine that those investment opportunities amount to Ponzi schemes, in which investor A’s “returns” are paid directly out of investor B’s investment, a pattern that is doomed ultimately to collapse. What if the person selling this “opportunity” truly believes in it, but (obviously) without justification? The scheme is provably foolish, and investors are doomed to lose money. Is it unethical for the seller to believe, when belief flies in the face of evidence? What about the case of selling homeopathic remedies, which are similarly unsupported by evidence? Can you think of other examples?

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LINK: Believing without evidence is always morally wrong (by Francisco Mejia Uribe for Aeon)

…In ‘The Ethics of Belief’ (1877), Clifford gives three arguments as to why we have a moral obligation to believe responsibly, that is, to believe only what we have sufficient evidence for, and what we have diligently investigated. His first argument starts with the simple observation that our beliefs influence our actions. Everyone would agree that our behaviour is shaped by what we take to be true about the world – which is to say, by what we believe. If I believe that it is raining outside, I’ll bring an umbrella. If I believe taxis don’t take credit cards, I make sure I have some cash before jumping into one. And if I believe that stealing is wrong, then I will pay for my goods before leaving the store….

What do you think?


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