Virtue Ethics in Business and the Capabilities Approach

Journal of Business Ethics 84 (S1):25 - 32 (2009)
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Recently, Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have developed the capabilities approach to provide a model for understanding the effectiveness of programs to help the developing nations. The approach holds that human beings are fundamentally free and have a sense of human dignity. Therefore, institutions need to help people enhance this dignity by providing them with the opportunity to develop their capabilities freely. I argue that this approach may help support business ethics based on virtue. Since teleology has become problematic, virtue ethics has had difficulty giving itself an ultimate justification. By combining virtue ethics with the capabilities approach, it becomes possible to ground virtue ethics on the basis of the existence of human dignity. This frees virtue ethics of the need for a strict teleology, replacing it with the notion that people must work to develop the capabilities of others although those capabilities are not pointed toward a definite goal. I further suggest that by grounding virtue ethics in capabilities, the actions of a virtuous manager become clearer. Rather than simply charging a manager with serving the public, the manager is charged with serving the stakeholders in a way that develops their capabilities. For example, a manager should not just give their employees what is just but must give them the environment and the encouragement to grow and to find fulfillment in their job



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Alexander U. Bertland
Niagara University

Citations of this work

Epistemic Virtues in Business.Boudewijn de Bruin - 2013 - Journal of Business Ethics 113 (4):583-595.
Kant on Virtue.Claus Dierksmeier - 2013 - Journal of Business Ethics 113 (4):597-609.
Virtuous Structures.Dirk Vriens, Jan Achterbergh & Liesbeth Gulpers - 2018 - Journal of Business Ethics 150 (3):671-690.

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References found in this work

Women and Human Development.Martha C. Nussbaum - 2003 - Mind 112 (446):372-375.
How virtue fits within business ethics.J. Thomas Whetstone - 2001 - Journal of Business Ethics 33 (2):101 - 114.
Virtue theory as a dynamic theory of business.Surendra Arjoon - 2000 - Journal of Business Ethics 28 (2):159 - 178.

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