Two views of business ethics: A popular philosophical approach and a value based interdisciplinary one [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 4 (1):71 - 79 (1985)


I distinguish between two problems related to business ethics. (1) How can business ethics help morally conscientious business people to resolve moral problems in business? (2) Given the widespread belief that immorality, or at least amorality, is too prevalent in business, how can one discover both the sources of business amorality and immorality and make business as morally respectable an institution as possible? Philosophers who have concerned themselves with business ethics have emphasized (1), i.e., they consider the normative ethical principles applicable to solving moral questions in business. Although some benefit can be derived from this approach, there are a number of problems with this position. I then argue that, in considering (2), we ought to analyze business life styles (ideals) that have determined the character of American business people, and show both their negative and positive moral consequences. This analysis reveals the morality, or lack of it, in modern American business, possible changes in business morality, and possible ways of developing a desirable and viable business ethic. In a sketchy way, I show how this project can be developed.

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