Kantian Business Ethics

Kantian Business Ethics

Critical Perspectives

Edited by Denis G. Arnold and Jared D. Harris

In this original collection of essays, a group of distinguished scholars critically examine the ethical dimensions of business using the Kantian themed business ethics of Norman E. Bowie as a jumping off point. The authors engage Bowie’s influential body of scholarship as well as contemporary themes in business, including topics such as: the normative foundations of capitalism; the applicability of Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and pragmatism in normative business ethics; meaningful work; managerial ethics; the ethics of high leverage finance capitalism; business ethics and corporate social responsibility; and responsibility for the natural environment. The contributors to this volume include both scholars sympathetic to Bowie’s Kantian business ethics and scholars critical of that perspective.

Chapter 1: Bowie’s Management Ethics: An Alternate View

Richard T. De George

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, corporate social responsibility


Richard T. De George Norman Bowie has exerted an enormous influence on the field of business ethics. As one of the pioneers in this area his influence was especially strong in defining the content and parameters of the field. He did this in two ways. First, in his capacity as Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association he received and was the principal investigator of a grant (1977–1980) from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop guidelines for courses in business ethics, which was still a vague subject with few courses and no textbooks. He assembled an interdisciplinary committee composed of philosophers, professors of business and businessmen to work on the project – stamping the field from the start as an interdisciplinary one, rather than as simply a subfield of applied ethics in philosophy departments.1 The second way he helped shape the field was by teaming up with Tom Beauchamp to edit one of the first anthologies in business ethics, which became one of the leading texts in the subject (Beauchamp and Bowie 1979). In the early days of the field, it was not unusual for papers in business ethics to cite only works from that text, the assumption being that there one found the best and most important articles in the area. Beyond these two initial central influences, the Beauchamp and Bowie text has over the years continued in successive revised editions to both lead and reflect the development of the field. In 2005 Bowie published a short...

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