Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silas' Moral Obligation

The question of moral values greatly intrigued me within this book. I have always assumed a natural separation between the business morals and personal morals of an individual. I questioned that assumption with this book and after the lecture on Tuesday. While reading the book I felt as if Silas did the right thing when he refused to sell his property, even when he knew that the people offering to buy it could handle the loss much better than he and his family could. I did not read it as a business operation at the time, rather I saw it as a good personal moral decision. I came away from lecture with a new view on the topic. Salas Lapham was a business man and the moral decision he was faced with was a business decision, yet he did not see a distinction between the two. I admired his strong standing when being tempted by Rogers to sell. When I asked myself if I would choose to make the same choice as Silas, I really did not know. Initially, I claimed that I would and had no questions about it, but when I began to see it as more of a business operation, my assurance slipped. I am not sure if I would have made the same choice. I may have left it up to the buyer to do his proper research before buying the property, that is after all what makes a successful business man, wise decision making. If they failed to do their homework and made a bad investment, would I be morally wrong to let them? I think that we all can learn a good lesson from Silas Lapham. There is no difference between business morals and personal morals. They are one and the same. The choices we make affect the people around us and whether that choice is business related or not still leaves us with a moral obligation to make the right choice.


  1. I support your claim that we can all learn something from Silas Lapham Amanda. I agree that his business decision was both difficult and adhered to ethics. However, I disagree that a business decision is similar to a moral decision. For me, one must ask oneself, "Am I a business person, or a person that does business?" I would label Silas as a person doing business, and if he would have sold, a business person.

    Seth Anderson

  2. I think I would have made the sale now that I think about it. There is a reason why we have the term business ethics, that is because the ethics that you use in business are not the same as what you would use in a non-professional setting. It is why you never do business with family.

  3. How incredible would it be if people today could understand this. You want to carry yourself and base your life off of the ethics you believe in. It shouldn't be put aside because you walk into the office, or when you walk in your front door.

  4. I think your post gets at the whole question of the distinction between the two kinds of ethics, Amanda. The whole issue of making a right choice comes down to whether that distinction is made, as Seth and Ken would argue, or whether it shouldn't make a difference, as you and Allie would say.

  5. Business is based on the idea that self-interest and the desire for profit are moral and good and that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to profit.
    Business morals

  6. This decision by Silas frustrated me because I wanted him to just say, "Look here fellows, the land is worth next-to-nothing because the railroad is coming through it. If you are comfortable with that, I will draw up a contract to be signed by you and those you represent stating you understand the situation."

    The only option Howells gave Silas was sell, or don't sell. I understand this was to emphasize the ethical dilemma of the situation. But I still wish there was option three!

    ~Ruth Nelson