Journal of Business Ethics (forthcoming)
|Abstract||Kierkegaard’s theory of pre-ethical, aesthetic, ethical, and religious spheres of moral reasoning was applied to the case of an individual rejected for promotion to full professor. The evaluators seemed to represent the public morality of the profession, assumed that they represented the highest level of moral reasoning, and judged that the candidate represented a private morality based on a lower level of moral reasoning. The article questioned the view that moral reasoning could be discerned from one’s actions. It was paradoxical that different spheres seemed to produce similar kinds of actions, though for differing reasons, making identification difficult. It was easy for the evaluators to confuse spheres representing private moralities and to conclude, based on the candidate’s research record, that she/he was unsuitable for promotion. It was equally difficult for the candidate to discern whether the evaluators’ moral reasoning represented the public morality of the profession, or a pre-ethical need by the evaluators to appear in solidarity with the public morality. This made it difficult for the candidate to know whether the evaluators’ recommendations represented absolute standards that would be applied to any future re-application, or not. The article’s contribution was the identification of different spheres of moral reasoning, the interactions between spheres, and the paradoxical indeterminacy of gauging moral reasoning from moral action. It supported Kierkegaard’s view that the highest truth attainable by an individual was “an objective uncertainty” and that this truth was lost in self-deception when one claimed to have been able to solve the paradox|
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