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Building on the Development of Western Civilization Program

After a review of topics addressed in the Development of Western Civilization (DWC) Program, we have identified themes related to ethics. The latest version of these themes is provided below:

Virtue Ethics focuses on developing good habits or traits of character. This includes both cardinal virtues identified by Aristotle and Plato (practical wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice), and the Christian virtues of the Catholic and Dominican tradition modeled by Jesus (humility, forgiveness, service, compassion, solidarity, etc.).

Deontology focuses on the rights of individuals and the duties that are associated with these rights. Immanuel Kant argued that each person had dignity and should be treated as an end and not as a means to an end. Kant also provided the categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

Utilitarianism focuses on the work of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham which calculates the greatest good by the consequences of actions. One should choose the action that provides the sum total of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Justice focuses on issues of fairness and the theories of Cicero, who held that justice is to give what is due. There are different types of justice – four are briefly defined below:

  1. Procedural justice – refers to fair processes for all parties involved.
  2. Distributive justice – refers to the fairness associated with how benefits and burdens are distributed in society.
  3. Compensatory justice – refers to the fair compensation to those who are injured by those who have injured them.
  4. Retributive justice – refers to the extent that punishments are fair and just.

Catholic Social Teaching sees business as a vocation to serve genuine human needs and to advance the common good guided by the social ethical principles (human dignity, solidarity, the dignity of work, rights of workers, rights and responsibilities, and care for God’s creations), illuminated by the Gospels. (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).