Virtue Ethics and Contractarianism

Business Ethics Quarterly 5 (2):297-312 (1995)
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The notion of rationality underlying contemporary business and business ethics, or the “rational actor” model of moral decision-making in business, links a roughly utilitarian notion of the good to a contractarian notion of human agency. The “C-Umodel” provides inadequate means for explaining how business people do or ought to behave or think about their behavior, because the notion of rationality upon which it relies is far too narrow a picture of business people’s character. An alternative to these assumptions and to the Contractarian-Utilitarian model, is offered in an ethics of virtue. Despite the traditional apparent conflict between these divergent models, the C-U model, if founded in a notion of rationality consistent with Aristotelian ethics, is recognized as a useful instrument in business ethics and business decision-making. Hence, a reconciliation is effected between the C-U model and virtue ethics.



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