David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Business Ethics 16 (12-13):1431-1438 (1997)
For more than two decades, Peter French has been arguing in books, articles and symposia that corporations are genuine actors in the moral universe. Like adult human beings, they can and should take moral responsibility for their actions and be held accountable by the other actors in this universe. I have always argued with my students that the position is both metaphysically incorrect and practically harmful. Now (1995) French has redeveloped his position through 380 pages in Corporate Ethics, probably the most challenging and original Business Ethics textbook yet to appear. It is a work of intellectual sophistication with real world applications. Using the metaphor invaders throughout the book, French argues not only that corporations are moral agents, but also that their moral agency has made the business world of the late twentieth century and of the coming century different from anything of preceding epochs. It is, in his argument, an agency of great potential danger and of great potential benefit, one in terms of which we can address every ethical problem of business. In the essay, I explore Corporate Ethics both on the metaphysical and the practical level.
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