Sweatshops and Free Action: The Stakes of the Actualism/Possibilism Debate for Business Ethics


Authors
Travis Timmerman
Seton Hall University
Abe Zakhem
Seton Hall University
Abstract
Whether an action is morally right depends upon the alternative acts available to the agent. Actualists hold that what an agent would actually do determines her moral obligations. Possibilists hold that what an agent could possibly do determines her moral obligations. Both views face compelling criticisms. Despite the fact that actualist and possibilist assumptions are at the heart of seminal arguments in business ethics, there has been no explicit discussion of actualism and possibilism in the business ethics literature. This paper has two primary goals. First, it aims to rectify this omission by bringing to light the importance of the actualism/possibilism debate for business ethics through questions about the ethics of sweatshops. Second, it aims to make some progress in the sweatshop debate by examining and defending an alternative view, hybridism, and describing the moral and practical implications of hybridism for the sweatshop debate.
Keywords business ethics  sweatshops  actualism  possibilism  hybridism
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