This paper offers directions for the continuing dialogue between business ethicists and environmental philosophers. I argue that a theory of corporate social responsibility must be consistent with, if not derived from, a model of sustainable economics rather than the prevailing neoclassical model of market economics. I use environmental examples to critique both classical and neoclassical models of corporate social responsibility and sketch the alternative model of sustainable development. After describing some implications of this model at the level of individual firms (...) and industries, I offer an ethical justification of the sustainability alternative that is derived from the same values that underlie traditional market economics. (shrink)
In “Spandrels,” Gould and Lewontin criticized what they took to be an all-too-common conviction, namely, that adaptation to current environments determines organic form. They stressed instead the importance of history . In this paper, we elaborate upon their concerns by appealing to other writings in which those issues are treated in greater detail. Gould and Lewontin’s combined emphasis on history was three-fold. First, evolution by natural selection does not start from scratch, but always refashions preexisting forms. Second, preexisting forms are (...) refashioned by the selection of whatever mutational variations happen to arise: the historical order of mutations needs to be taken into account. Third, the order of environments and selection pressures also needs to be taken into account. (shrink)
Biologists in the last 50 years have increasingly emphasized the role of historical contingency in explaining the distribution and dynamics of biological systems. However, recent work in philosophy of biology has shown that historical contingency carries various interpretations and that we are still lacking a general understanding of historicity, i.e., a framework from which to interpret why and to what extent history matters in biological processes. Building from examples and analyses of the long-term experimental evolution (LTEE) project, this paper argues (...) that historicity possess three essential conditions: (1) multiple possible pasts, (2) multiple possible outcomes at a given instant, and (3) a relationship of causal dependence between these two sets. These criteria can be further specified in two general forms of historicity: dependence on initial conditions and path dependence. More attention is devoted to developing a rigorous account of the latter, which captures the type of historicity displayed by stochastic processes. This paper also highlights that it is often more productive to adopt an instant-relative approach and think in terms of degree of historicity instead of trying to maintain a rigid and absolute dichotomy between historical and ahistorical (completely convergent) processes. (shrink)
In this paper we want to explore an argumentative pattern that provides a normative justification for expected utility functions grounded on empirical evidence, showing how it worked in three different episodes of their development. The argument claims that we should prudentially maximize our expected utility since this is the criterion effectively applied by those who are considered wisest in making risky choices (be it gamblers or businessmen). Yet, to justify the adoption of this rule, it should be proven that this (...) is empirically true: i.e., that a given function allows us to predict the choices of that particular class of agents. We show how expected utility functions were introduced and contested in accordance with this pattern in the 18th century and how it recurred in the 1950s when M. Allais made his case against the neobernoullians. (shrink)
Sustainability informs the framework for a seminar that we teach for junior and senior undergraduates entitled "The Ethics and Economics of Sustainable Societies." One of the class requirements has each student research and write a life-cycle case study, an exercise in which they trace the full, or partial, life-cycle of some product with which they are familiar. Students are expected to examine the economic, ethical, and ecological implications along each step in the life-cycle of the product. We believe that life-cycle (...) cases in general are very helpful in revealing the full economic, ethical, and ecological consequences of product development, marketing, use, and disposal. We also believe that asking students to research the product themselves provides additional pedagogical benefits. After a brief review of the philosophical case for our alternative view of corporate social responsibility, we will describe the life-cycle case method, offer several examples from our own classes, and make the case for the pedagogical benefits of this approach. (shrink)
This paper attempts to sort through some of the challenges facing those of us who look to empirical science for help in doing normative business ethics. I suggest that the distinction between explanation and justification, a distinction at the heart of the difference between descriptive social science and normative ethics, is often overlooked when social scientists attempt to draw ethical conclusions from their research.
Regional planning for improved agricultural capacity to supply produce, legumes, and whole grains has the potential to improve population health as well as the local food economy. This case study of Waterloo Region (WR), Canada, had two objectives. First, we estimate the quantity of locally grown vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains needed to help meet the Region of Waterloo population’s optimal nutritional requirements currently and in 2026. Secondly, we estimate how much of these healthy food requirements for the WR (...) population could realistically be produced through local agriculture by the year 2026. Results show that a shift of approximately 10% of currently cropped hectares to the production of key nutritious foods would be both agriculturally feasible and nutritionally significant to the growing population. We supplement our findings with some agronomic considerations and community-level strategies that would inform and support such change. The methodology of this study could be applied to other regions: more such analyses would create a broader picture of the diverse qualitative and quantitative agricultural shifts that could synchronize optimal land use with dietary recommendations, thus informing coordinated policy and planning. (shrink)
This paper takes the form of a reflective dialogue between three teachers of business ethics working in different continents. Originating as a conference debate, it takes as its theme the notion of ideological ‘neutrality’ and the role of the business ethics teacher. A position statement outlines an argument for ‘restraint’ as a modern day Aristotleian mean to protect student academic freedom. Two responses follow. The first of these provides a moderate advocacy position based on Socratic principles. The second response outlines (...) the notion of teaching as a relational process necessitating delayed disclosure and moral courage on the part of the teacher. The paper concludes with a brief reflection by the author of the position statement. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to account for the effect of mother's death on child survival in a historical population. Using comprehensive data on the early French Canadian population of Quebec, evidence is provided for a higher risk of dying for motherless children that remains significant over all childhood and long after the death of the mother. The specific effect of the loss of maternal care was estimated by comparing mortality before and after mother's death, furnishing a means to (...) control for family heterogeneity. No differential in investment between genders was detected before age 3, but older girls suffered a three-fold higher susceptibility to mother's death than their male counterparts. This suggests that grown-up girls assuming the responsibilities of the missing mother had a lower chance of survival. (shrink)
In philosophical circles, Electress Sophie of Hanover (1630-1714) is known mainly as the friend, patron, and correspondent of Leibniz. While many scholars acknowledge Sophie's interest in philosophy, some also claim that Sophie dabbled in philosophy herself, but did not do so either seriously or competently. In this paper I show that such a view is incorrect, and that Sophie did make interesting philosophical contributions of her own, principally concerning the nature of mind and thought.
Girls learn the lesson of cognitive deference most clearly, perhaps, growing up in patriarchal families. Taught to discount their own judgments and to depend on those of the family's dominant men, they lose self-trust and cannot take themselves seriously as moral deliberators. I argue that through the telling of counterstories, which undermine normative stories of oppression, it is sometimes possible for women to reclaim these families as places where they have cognitive authority.