Edited by Denis G. Arnold and Jared D. Harris
Chapter 3: Bowie’s Ethics: A Pragmatist Perspective
3. Bowie’s ethics: a pragmatist perspective R. Edward Freeman 1. INTRODUCTION In Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective, Norman Bowie lays out a modernday view of Kant and carefully traces the implications for business ethics. In Section 2, I shall argue that Bowie’s Kantian perspective can easily accommodate a pragmatist view of business ethics, linking two traditions in ethical theory that are often found to be enemies. In Section 3, I shall focus on Bowie’s arguments about the second interpretation of the categorical imperative and his claims about the humanity of stakeholders. Finally in Section 4, I shall resurrect an old idea which Daniel R. Gilbert, Jr. and I called ‘personal projects enterprise strategy’, and show how it is at once Kantian and pragmatist, reinterpreting it without the heavy deontological language in which it was originally framed. Bowie’s three formulations of Kant’s dictum lend more support to such a project than may be generally perceived. To conclude, I shall suggest that one lasting contribution of Bowie’s work will be that it facilitates the integration of work in philosophy and ethics with work in the disciplines of business, strengthening both along the way. 2. BOWIE’S KANTIAN PRAGMATISM What is a pragmatist anyway?1 In the philosophical literature, pragmatism is usually credited to its ‘founders’ or ‘pioneers’ such as Charles Peirce, William James and John Dewey.2 For my purposes, I rely on the more recent work of philosopher Richard Rorty and those who have become known as ‘the new pragmatists’. Analytic philosophy, stemming...
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