Is there any ethics in business ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 8 (4):261 - 269 (1989)


It is argued, against Richard T. De George, that while clarification of concepts, implications, and presuppositions in business ethics largely relies on a neutral territory of reason, determination of what moral intuitions are correct depends on non-neutral ethical theories. The latter posit ethics in business to varying degrees. Thus while the Kantian and utilitarian ethical theories are, for De George, proper (philosophical) approaches to business ethics, they are as reliant on affirming and encouraging moral sentiments outside parameters of pure reason as theological approaches. And hence if theological approaches can make no unique contribution by virtue of relying on more than reason or experience alone, then philosophical approaches can make no distinctive contribution either. Either both are viable or neither are. Oscillation between the mutually dependent notions of business ethics and ethics in business obfuscates what the field of business ethics is and renders De George's position inadequate.

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Robert Trundle
University of Colorado, Boulder (PhD)

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