Reconsidering Virtue: Differences of Perspective in Virtue Ethics and the Positive Social Sciences

Journal of Business Ethics 119 (4):1-16 (2014)
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Abstract

This paper describes differences in two perspectives on the idea of virtue as a theoretical foundation for positive organizational ethics (POE). The virtue ethics perspective is grounded in the philosophical tradition, has classical roots, and focuses attention on virtue as a property of character. The positive social science perspective is a recent movement (e.g., positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship) that has implications for POE. The positive social science movement operationalizes virtue through an empirical lens that emphasizes virtuous behaviors. From a virtue ethics perspective, a behaviorally based account of virtue is a weak theory of virtue. Observations are suggested for integrating the two perspectives. First, virtue should always be understood as an excellence and is often an optimal point between extreme dysfunctions on continuum of potential states. Second, an empirical exploration of virtue needs to account for character and context. Finally, the properties of organization-level virtue need to be further specified and explored. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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