Cover image for The muted conscience : moral silence and the practice of ethics in business
The muted conscience : moral silence and the practice of ethics in business
Bird, Frederick B. (Frederick Bruce), 1938-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn : Quorum Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
ix, 268 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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HF5387 .B537 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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t's not that most businesspeople lack moral convictions. Rather, they tend not to voice them and are inattentive when others Udo . Bird sees this behavior as moral silence, deafness, and blindness, and, following this analogy to the senses, he argues that the practice of ethics is a form of communication. Thus, instead of focusing on specific moral issues, Bird examines the things that stifle communication about moral issues--factors that have a costly impact on business. His book presents a new view of ethics, in which ethics can be construed as a practical social activity, not a utopian concept to be contemplated in the abstract. With numerous examples and case studies from business life and a logical, sensible analysis of what causes moral silence, deafness, and blindness, Bird's book will be challenging reading not only for professionals and academics in various fields of business, but also for their colleagues in philosophy, religion, and the social sciences.

The author begins by discussing the nature of moral silence in contemporary business and asks what kind of problem it is. He examines what it means to voice or not voice moral convictions and what it means to be inattentive or deaf to moral issues. He continues the analogy into moral blindness--the problem of not perceiving moral issues clearly. From there he explores the consequences of moral silence, deafness, and blindness and traces their causes to a variety of cultural, individual, and organizational factors, all of them interconnected. The book concludes with a way in which businesspeople and others can understand ethics as a social activity in which everyone can and must participate. Bird sees the practice of ethics as a form of conversation, a way in which people establish and maintain agreements among themselves, and in doing so help each other overcome their sensory incapacitations. Bird provides ways in which this can be done, from the use of workshops on interpersonal skills to seminars on conflict resolution--tools and aids that are already prevalent in organizations but that have not, until now, been seen as facilitators of moral awareness and action.

Author Notes

rd /f Frederick /i Bruce/b FREDERICK BRUCE BIRD is Professor of Comparative Ethics at Concordia University, Montreal, where he teaches in both the management and religion departments and directs the doctoral program in religion./e He holds advanced degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the Graduate Theological Union and has authored or coauthored several previous books on management, business, and ethics.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Bird (Concordia Univ.) takes a new approach to business ethics. Rather than discussing moral issues or using frameworks and typologies, he reasons that moral failures are largely the result of communication failures. He offers five basic causes for ethics-related communication failure and explains how organizations create situations and structures that operate to inhibit discussion of moral issues. In particular, he implicates barriers to dissent, top-down accountability, blocks to organizational learning, and barriers to horizontal communication as critical hindrances to effective discussion. In the concluding chapter the author recommends ways to create and improve "moral conversation" as a vehicle for changing the moral climate. While many may disagree with Bird's fundamental approach, many others will find themselves in agreement with his recommendations for change. Graduate; faculty; professional. L. J. Cumbo; Emory and Henry College

Table of Contents

Moral Silence
Moral Deafness
Moral Blindness
Consequences of Moral Silence, Deafness, and Blindness
Underlying Causes of Moral Silence, Deafness, and Blindness Good Conversations