Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Michael S. Josephson

American Ethicist, Law Professor, Attorney, Author, Speaker and Lecturer, President and Founder of Josephson Institute

"There's no such thing as business ethics; there's just ethics. And ethics makes no concessions for the real or imagined necessities of making a profit."

"A deeper satisfaction lies in honoring universal ethical values, that is, values that people everywhere believe should inform behavior. That unity between principled belief and honorable behavior is the foundation for real happiness."

"Caring is the heart of ethics, and ethical decision-making. It is scarcely possible to be truly ethical and yet unconcerned with the welfare of others. That is because ethics is ultimately about good relations with other people."

"A person who has character is thought to be especially worthy, virtuous, or admirable in terms of moral qualities."

"Fair people do not wait for the truth to come to them; they seek out relevant information and conflicting perspectives before making important judgments."

"A person of character must look out for and overcome three very human tendencies that undermine good intentions: self-righteousness, self-delusion, and selfishness."

"Happiness is a kind of emotional resting place of quiet satisfaction with one's life."

"Ethics is putting principles into action. Consistently between what we say we value and what our actions say we value is a matter of integrity."

"Everything we do and say ultimately arises from and reveals our character."

"It's not enough that we discern the ethical and effective course; we must follow it. This often takes will power or moral courage: the willingness to do the right thing even when it is inconvenient, scary, difficult or costly."

"Just as a mountain is constantly being shaped by weather, our character can be reformed by our choices. Our human capacity to reason and choose makes the formation of our character an ongoing process. Each day we can decide to be different."

"Most people have convictions about what is right and wrong based on religious beliefs, cultural roots, family background, personal experiences, laws, organizational values, professional norms and political habits. These are not the best values to make ethical decisions by--not because they are unimportant, but because they are not universal."

"No one is born with good character. It's not hereditary. Yet everyone, regardless of background, enters the world with the opportunity to become a person of exemplary character."

"Our capacity to reason and our freedom to choose make us morally autonomous and, therefore, answerable for whether we honor or degrade the ethical principles that give life meaning and purpose."

"The moral challenge is to carry out our pursuits with character, to treat ethics as a ground rule, not an option, even when the standards of ethics impede our ability to get what we want."

"People who are content being "basically honest" are admitting that when the stakes are high enough, they are willing to be dishonest. Doesn't that mean that they are basically dishonest?"

"Though the ethical challenges we face in the workplace may be different from those in our personal lives, the principles of ethical conduct that apply to those challenges do not change. There is no such thing as business ethics - there is only ethics."

"The Golden Rule, however, falters in situations that involve a complex network of stakeholders with conflicting interests. It provides no guidance on how to choose among them."

"There's great danger in confusing a sustainable state of happiness with fleeting sensations of pleasure and fun."

"The real test of our ethics is whether we are willing to do the right thing even when it is not in our self-interest."

"We certainly have no ethical duty to hold all people in high esteem, but we should treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they are and what they have done."

"Yes, there are powerful systemic forces that can make it difficult for us to do the right thing. In the last analysis, however, ethics is our individual responsibility."

"Character is doing the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay. When it comes to character, you don’t have to be sick to get better. It’s easier for a good person to get better than for a bad person to get good."

"Ordinary people, even weak people, can do extraordinary things through temporary courage generated by a situation. But the person of character does not need the situation to generate his courage. It is a part of his being and a standard approach to all life's challenges. We’re all ethical in our own eyes. Although we are usually judged by our last worst act, we usually judge ourselves by our most noble deeds, our best intentions and our most virtuous traits. Character is not a fancy coat we put on for show, it’s who we really are."

"It’s a sign of troubled times when the concept of “pressure” becomes an acceptable excuse for ethical shortcuts and moral shortcomings. Pressures are just temptations in disguise and it’s never been acceptable to give in to temptation. Ethics is about the way things ought to be, not about the way things are. When it comes to ethics, motive is very important. A person of character does the right thing for the right reason. Compliance is about what we must do; ethics is about what we should do. Ethical people often do more than the law requires and less than it allows. The area of discretion between the legal “must” and the moral “should” tests our character. Noble talk and framed ethics statements are no substitute for principled conduct. The test is doing the right thing."

"The ethical person should do more than he is required to do and less than he is allowed to do."

"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me."

"If you want to punish someone, tear them down, inflict shame, induce guilt, criticize. If you want to help someone change for the better, build them up, instill pride, encourage and praise."

"As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture. We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful — but it isn’t right. Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out, “Life is short but there is always time for courtesy.” The idea is to act in ways that make the people we are dealing with feel valued. Courtesy is kindness in action. It starts with good manners — saying please, thank you, and excuse me. But real courtesy involves more thoughtful ways of showing respect. Courtesy is a form of kindness. It matters how we address people and how we greet them, as well as how we eat, talk, and cough in their presence. Courtesy involves remembering important occasions, buying thoughtful gifts, and sending personal thank-you notes. Making people feel important is part of courtesy, so it’s important to remember that whether or not people remember what we say or do, they do remember how we made them feel. Make eye contact, truly listen, and show genuine interest in the lives of others by asking them questions and remembering their answers. A good start is to keep in mind H. Jackson Brown’s insight: “Everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.” Always be kinder than necessary because you can never be too kind."

"A fairer statement is that good ethics can be a very powerful business asset and that good things tend to happen to companies and individuals that consistently do the right thing and bad things tend to happen to those that even occasionally do the wrong thing."

"At you look back on the year gone by, think of missed opportunities not with regret but as a reminder of what you learned that you can use to seize the opportunities ahead."

"Character is doing the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay."

"But the crucial point is that the moral obligation to live according to ethical principles is not dependent on whether it's advantageous. People of character do the right thing in the pursuit of virtue, not self-interest."

"Be bold but be smart. Don't be afraid to fail or intimidated by the possibility of criticism or ridicule in pursuing your important goals, but don't take foolish risks either, especially where the upside is small and the downside is serious."

"Don?t confuse fun with fulfillment, or pleasure with happiness."

"Don't do anything today that will darken tomorrow."

"Ethics is not about the way things are, it's about the way they ought to be."

"Ethics is not a description of what people do; it's a prescription for what we all should do."

"Everything you do sends a message about who you are and what you value."

"Experimenting with drugs is like target practice where your head is the bull."

"Happiness is the peace of mind that comes from feeling that I am living a worthy life in the company of people I love and in the service of something bigger than myself."

"Honesty doesn?t always pay, but dishonesty always costs."

"How many times do you get to lie before you are a liar?"

"If we keep treating our most important values as meaningless relics, that's exactly what they'll become."

"Ideas without action are like beautifully gift wrapped boxes with nothing inside."

"Never underestimate the power of temptation to disarm your better senses. Throughout the ages good people surrendered their honor for the empty promise that wealth or power would bring fulfillment and their dignity, good name and self-esteem for the passing pleasures of sex and drugs."

"I'm happy that they approved it. It's great for those employees and former employees that participated in the lawsuit."

"Live to give and you will live larger and better than you ever have before."

"On a practical level, there are two vital steps to ethical behavior:"

"Learn from your past but live for your future."