Are People Inherently Honest?

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Moral Pages: 3 (1063 words) Published: May 3, 2012
Are people inherently honest?
Justin Gilman

Submitted May 1, 2012 for
Prof. Dr. Roberto Weber and Dr. Suzann-Viola Renninger
BOEC0308 – Business Ethics and Social Science
There are numerous theories that attempt to explain the motivation behind people acting in certain ways. This paper will address three of these theories, apply these theories to how people choose to behave honestly or dishonestly, and will attempt to determine whether or not people are inherently honest. Before looking into the motivation behind people’s decision to be honest, it is important to define some key terms in order to fully understand and explore what it means to be inherently honest. Merriam-Webster defines honest as “free from fraud or deception,” or simply put, truthful. It defines inherent as “belonging by nature or habit.” The majority of people simply associate something being inherent as ‘natural’ or ‘innate’. Interestingly, this definition expands our view on what one may consider ‘inherent’ by noting how past habits can also play a vital role in how one behaves. Now that we have defined what honesty and inherent behaviour entails, we can now look at the various theories that attempt to identify the motivation behind people behaving honestly. One of these theories is the fact that humans choose to act honestly or not based on what we feel is ‘morally good’ or the ‘right thing to do’ according to a very personal set of rules and morals. An individual’s behaviours are heavily influenced in order to satisfy this individual set of rules. Of course, there are a number of positions one can take on when defining this set of rules. Deontologists would argue that one should be honest one hundred percent of the time, regardless of the situation. They believe that it is ones’ moral obligation to behave honestly and have a duty of adhering to this universal rule. On the other hand, utilitarianism claims that the decision to act honestly or dishonestly varies depending on the...

Cited: Gneezy, Uri. "Deception: The Role of Consequences." The American Economic Review. 95.1 (2005): 384-94. American Economic Association. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
Merriam-Webster. "Honest." Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
Merriam-Webster. "Inherent." Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
Weber, Roberto. "Moral Behaviour: Honesty." Business Ethics and Social Science: Week 9. University of Zurich, Zurich. 17 Apr. 2012. Lecture.
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