The Role of Character in Business Ethics

Business Ethics Quarterly 8 (3):547-559 (1998)
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Abstract:There is good reason to take a virtue-based approach to business ethics. Moral principles are fairly useful in assessing actions, but understanding how moral people behave and how they become moral requires reference to virtues, some of which are important in business. We must go beyond virtues and refer to character, of which virtues are components, to grasp the relationship between moral assessment and psychological explanation. Virtues and other character traits are closely related to (in technical terms, they supervene on) personality traits postulated by personality psychologists. They may therefore be featured in respectable psychological explanations. But good character fits no familiar psychological pattern. A person of good character is sufficiently self-aware and rational that his or her virtues are not accompanied by the vices that psychologists find usually associated with them. A course in business ethics can help develop this self-awareness, which a good life in business requires.



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