Virtue ethics, the authors believe, is distinct and superior to other options because it considers, in the first place, which preferences are worth pursuing, rather than just blindly maximizing preferences, and it takes into account intuitions, emotions and experience, instead of acting solely on abstract universal principles. Moreover, virtue ethics is seen as firmly rooted in human biology and psychology, particularly in our freedom, rationality, and sociability. Work, business, and management are presented as vital areas for the development of virtues, (...) not the least with a view to human flourishing. We conclude by introducing the articles included in this special issue. (shrink)
If social scientists take natural science as a model, they may err in their predictions and may offer facile ethical views. Maclntyre assails them for this, but he is unduly pessimistic about business, and in rejecting the separation thesis he raises some difficulties about naturalism.Aristotle's views of the good life and of the close relationship between internal and external goods provide a corrective to Maclntyre, and in fact suggest how virtues can support social capital and thus prevail within and among (...) firms in competitive markets. Aristotle's views are not necessarily inimical to those underlying modern democratic capitalism, but they raise questions about the limits to the good life. The separation thesis misses the importance of addressing the questions with both empirical and ethical resources. (shrink)
We typically test norms with reference to their usefulness in dealing with social problems and issues, though sometimes we use hypernorms to evaluate them. The hypernorms that we find most acceptable do not guide action in the way local norms do. They do, however, raise challenging questions that we should ask in evaluating any practice and its associated norms. In this respect, they differ from the principles associated with traditional, as opposed to modern, morality. As societies become more alike, in (...) part as a result of globalization, they will face increasingly similar problems. Then their local norms will be more similar, and they will be more likely to share hypernorms. Insofar as we can agree to try to justify our hypernorms, we are likely to converge on the hypernorms characteristic of modern rather than traditional morality. But people are often attached to their old norms and so are not very good at seeing how hypernorms raise questions that challenge the old norms. Here moral imagination should aid in the adjustment process. A system of democratic capitalism is hospitable to a good kind of moral convergence. (shrink)
It may be nearly impossible to use standard principles to make a decision about a complex ethical case. The best decision, say virtue ethicists in the Aristotelian tradition, is often one that is made by a person of good character who knows the salient facts of the case and can frame the situation appropriately. In this respect ethical decisions and strategic decisions are similar. Rationality plays a role in good ethical decision-making, but virtue ethicists emphasize the importance ofintuitions and emotions (...) as well.Virtue ethics suggests a reconciliation of the factual and the normative. Virtues may explain as well as justify actions. The same is true of other psychological states and events. That psychological terms have normative implications does not render them useless in explanation. As Aristotle does not distinguish cleanly between the normative and empirical, so many moral philosophers today reject the is-ought dichotomy. They are prepared to learn from economists, psychologists,and other empirical scientists who offer information about the nature of the good life and of values. Social psychologists who study community or corporate culture suggest a close relationship between organizational and ethical features, much as Aristotle saw a close relationship between politics and ethics. We should infer from all this that in business ethics there is good reason for philosophers and organization scholars to work closely together. (shrink)
To teach that being ethical requires knowing foundational ethical principles – or, as Socrates claimed, airtight definitions of ethical terms – is to invite cynicism among students, for students discover that no such principles can be found. Aristotle differs from Socrates in claiming that ethics is about virtues primarily, and that one can be virtuous without having the sort of knowledge that characterizes mathematics or natural science. Aristotle is able to demonstrate that ethics and self-interest may overlap, that ethics is (...) largely compatible with common sense, and that Aristotle’s virtuous person can make ethical decisions rationally. Case studies can help students improve their ethical perception and keep their values from being overwhelmed by corporate culture. (shrink)
The Stern School is undertaking a program to teach business ethics to Stern professors and others who have an interest in ethics but no previous formal instruction. The two-year series of faculty seminars will produce a cadre of professors who are well equipped to do research, to write scholarly papers, and to teach business ethics at a high level. The documentation of the seminar series will be available for others to use.
Aristotelian naturalism is a good vantage point from which to consider the moral implications of evolution. Sociobiologists err in arguing that evolution is the basis for morality: not all or only moral features and institutions are selected for. Nor does the longevity of an institution argue for its moral status. On the other hand, facts about human capacities can have implications concerning human obligations, as Aristotle suggests. Aristotle’s eudaimonistic approach to ethics suggests that the notion of interests is far subtler (...) than many have realized, and leaves open the possibility that cooperativeness may be adaptive, virtuous, and a good thing for the agent. Lawrence and Nohria argue along remarkably similar lines, and they provide evidence against those who would question the existence of character. But promising as the Aristotelian approach is, it seems to give an inadequate account of our moral responsibility to those who are not members of our community. (shrink)
The American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business has called for stronger ethics programs. There are two problems with this battle cry. First, the AACSB rejects, with weak arguments, the single best way to get ethics into the curriculum. Second, the AACSB can only vaguely describe some unpromising alternatives to that strategy. A number of leading business ethicists have challenged the AACSB to defend and clarify its views, to little avail. The proposed Procedures and Standards cannot by themselves bring about (...) any significant change in the teaching of business ethics. There is a gap between the AACSB’s professed objectives and the means for achieving the objectives and determining whether they are being achieved. The Statement about Curriculum Content gives great prominence to the teaching of business ethics, but the interpretation of the statement, especially in the standards for measuring achievement, shows how improbable it is that the proposed Procedures and Standards will have the desired impact. We must recognize the constraints on the AACSB as we consider current standards and the controversy over a free-standing course versus an integrated curricular approach. The evident conclusion is a call, not only to the AACSB but to all business school educators, to set the stage for strengthened ethics education rather than to have standards imposed on us from outside. (shrink)
Phillips and Margolis argue that moral philosophy is a poor basis for business ethics, but their narrow view of moral philosophywould exclude Aristotle, for one. They criticize me for assimilating states and organizations in using the Rawlsian device, but they puttoo much faith in Rawls's distinction between states and voluntary organizations and pay too little attention to the continuities betweenthem. Their plea for a conceptually autonomous ethics for organizations I interpret as reasonable and largely compatible with my ownstated opinion.
We have reached a rough moral consensus in the field of business ethics. We believe in capitalism with a safety net and enoughregulation to deal with serious market imperfections. We favor autonomy for individuals and democracy for governments, thoughnot necessarily for organizations. We recognize the rights of citizens and the different rights of employees. We respect a variety of possible sets of values, and so countenance a distinction between public and private. In other words, we are capitalists, pluralists, and liberals. (...) But globalization will force us and businesspeople who share our views to deal with significant stakeholders who do not. The 21st century will see the accelerating pace of globalization. The great challenge for business ethics, for its philosophers and its scholars of business, will be to identify and advocate morality that takes adequate account of globalization, and that in so doing avoidsuntenable parochialism without falling into relativism. (shrink)
There is good reason to take a virtue-based approach to business ethics. Moral principles are fairly useful in assessing actions, but understanding how moral people behave and how they become moral requires reference to virtues, some of which are important inbusiness. We must go beyond virtues and refer to character, of which virtues are components, to grasp the relationship between moralassessment and psychological explanation. Virtues and other character traits are closely related to (in technical terms, they superveneon) personality traits postulated (...) by personality psychologists. They may therefore be featured in respectable psychological explanations.But good character fits no familiar psychological pattern. A person of good character is sufficiently self-aware and rational that his or hervirtues are not accompanied by the vices that psychologists find usually associated with them. A course in business ethics can helpdevelop this self-awareness, which a good life in business requires. (shrink)