The Ethics of Conviction Versus the Ethics of Responsibility: A False Antithesis for Business Ethics

Journal of Human Values 13 (2):83-94 (2007)
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Abstract

In his famous lecture on ‘Politics as a Vocation’, Max Weber coined and elaborated on the antithesis between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility, which has had a far-reaching impact on the ethics discussions, particularly in German-speaking countries. The article explores what Weber himself meant with this distinction and what implications result from it. As an interesting historical observation, Weber's interpretation of ‘Do not resist an evildoer’ in the New Testament is contrasted with Mahatma Gandhi's diametrically opposed interpretation. After criticizing Weber's position, the article outlines how today's business ethics can be based on a new and different foundation that overcomes the ‘profound antithesis’ between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility without disregarding the tensions between internal attitudes and external action results.

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