Moral Luck and Business Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 83 (4):773-787 (2008)
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Abstract

Moral luck – which seems to appear when circumstances beyond a person’s control influence our moral attributions of praise and blame – is troubling in that modern moral theory has supposed morality to be immune to luck. In business, moral luck commonly influences our moral judgments, many of which have economic consequences that cannot be reversed. The possibility that the chance intervention of luck could influence the way in which we assign moral accountability in business ethics is unsettling. This paper argues that if we cannot explain moral luck away, we should give consideration to moral risk in our moral judgments and the associated assignment of economic rewards regarding episodes in which moral luck plays a role.

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Christopher Michaelson
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota