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 2: Revisiting the Egoism Question in Business

Ronald Duska

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


Ronald Duska Being friends does not preclude our disagreeing about some issues in ethical theory and business ethics. Aristotle reminds us when talking about Plato that ‘it is out sacred duty to honor truth more highly than friends’ (Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Bk 1, Ch 6, 1096a16). While Norman Bowie and I have differences of opinion, it would be presumptuous of me to think that I have the truth and Bowie is wrong. Thus, if perhaps Bowie is right about the areas where we disagree, and I am still not convinced, our friendship will let us continue in a mutually respectful disagreement about some things. Over the years I have found that our chief area of disagreement is over the importance of Kantian insights into the domain of business ethics. Bowie himself has said: I do not believe that the Kantian vision is the only reasonable moral vision that one can apply to business ethics ... It should not be surprising, after all, that plausible ethical theories give similar answers to what is right and wrong. Thus, utilitarianism, virtue theory and Kantianism would all condemn failure to keep business contracts or failure to pay one’s suppliers … However, I believe Kantianism does a better job than competing ethical theories in justifying a number of ‘good’ business practices. (Bowie 1999, p.4) On the contrary, I believe that an essentialist, teleological, Aristotelian approach is more felicitous. Thus being asked to comment on Bowie’s work creates a conundrum. Do I comment on what I see to...

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