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 9: Meaningful Work

Joseph R. DesJardins

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


Joseph R. DesJardins Philosophers working in business ethics cannot help but be engaged with Norman Bowie’s writings. Part of the reason for this is the sheer volume of his work. Bowie has written about topics ranging from abstract questions of Kantian ethics, to strategic and organizational topics of stakeholder theory, to such applied and practical questions as sweatshop labor and marketing. It would be difficult to find a topic of philosophical interest in business that he has not addressed. But Bowie’s influence has not been due only to the amount of his work. For over 30 years, his writing has been a model of philosophical rigor, clarity and consistency. The consistency of his writing, of course, can be attributed to his unwavering commitment to the principles and insights of Kantian moral philosophy. Business ethics has benefitted whenever Bowie brings this rigorously consistent Kantian perspective to bear on a topic of philosophical import. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some of his most thought-provoking essays have been those that have examined subjects close to the heart of alternative philosophical traditions through this Kantian lens. An example of this that I have always found intriguing is Bowie’s essay titled ‘A Kantian theory of meaningful work’ (1998), and the corresponding discussion of meaningful work that can be found in Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective (1999). Talk about meaningful human lives and meaningful work is more at home in an ethical tradition that emphasizes a common human good, human flourishing, and a...

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