Journal of Business Ethics 91 (1):127-143 (2010)

Neelke Doorn
Delft University of Technology
Insights from social science are increasingly used in the field of applied ethics. However, recent insights have shown that the empirical branch of business ethics lacks thorough theoretical grounding. This article discusses the use of the Rawlsian methods of wide reflective equilibrium and overlapping consensus in the field of applied ethics. Instead of focussing on one single comprehensive ethical doctrine to provide adequate guidance for resolving moral dilemmas, these Rawlsian methods seek to find a balance between considered judgments and intuitions concerning particular cases on the one hand and general principles and theories on the other. In business ethics this approach is promissing because it enables decision-making in a pluralist context with different stakeholders who often endorse different or even conflicting cultural and moral frameworks without giving priority to any of them. Moreover, the method is well founded in political theory. A taxonomy of different kinds of applications is developed, and classified according to the purpose, the content, and the type of justification. On the basis of this taxonomy an inventory of 12 recent applications is made. In terms of the purpose and content of the method the applications are rather diverse. Two conceptual obstacles for applying Rawlsian methods are identified, viz. inclusiveness and the communitarian objection that people have to become detached from their personal life. It is found that methodological questions, such as the question how to retrieve the relevant empirical data, are scarcely addressed in the literature. To advance the use of empirical approaches in general, and that of Rawlsian approaches in particular, it is important not only to use empirical data but to use methodological insights from social sciences in order to further advance the field of empirical ethics. It is recommended that stakeholders be given a more active role in the assessment and justification of these methods
Keywords applied ethics  conflicting values  ethical methodology  justification  overlapping consensus  Rawls  wide reflective equilibrium
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2009, 2010
DOI 10.1007/s10551-009-0073-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,079
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.C. L. Ten - 2003 - Mind 112 (447):563-566.

View all 53 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Empirical Research on Ethical Issues in Pediatric Research.Joan E. Sieber - 2008 - Ethics and Behavior 18 (2-3):127 – 138.
Investigating Ethical Issues in Engineering Design.Ibo Poel - 2001 - Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (3):429-446.
Investigating Ethical Issues in Engineering Design.Ibo van de Poel - 2001 - Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (3):429-446.
A Proposed Rural Healthcare Ethics Agenda.W. Nelson, A. Pomerantz, K. Howard & A. Bushy - 2007 - Journal of Medical Ethics 33 (3):136-139.


Added to PP index

Total views
39 ( #290,906 of 2,506,078 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,984 of 2,506,078 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes