Epistemic Virtues Versus Ethical Values in the Financial Services Sector

Journal of Business Ethics 155 (1):17-27 (2019)
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In his important recent book, Ethics and the Global Financial Crisis: Why Incompetence is Worse than Greed, Boudewijn de Bruin argues that a key element of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 was a failure of epistemic virtue. To improve matters, then, de Bruin argues we need to focus on the acquisition and exercise of epistemic virtues, rather than to focus on a more ethical culture for banking per se. Whilst this is an interesting suggestion and it is indeed very plausible that an increased focus on proper knowledge-related behaviour will be part of a solution, we are sceptical both about de Bruin’s overarching theoretical claims and about his practical suggestions for change. Instead we argue that change in this sector is best promoted by reconceiving of the relationship between financial institutions and the societies they serve, and that this is fundamentally not an epistemic but a moral issue.



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Brad Hooker
University of Reading
Emma Borg
University of Reading

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