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Reconciliation in Business Ethics: Some Advice from Aristotle

Edwin M. Hartman
Business Ethics Quarterly
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Apr., 2008), pp. 253-265
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27673231
Page Count: 13
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Reconciliation in Business Ethics: Some Advice from Aristotle
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Abstract

It may be nearly impossible to use standard principles to make a decision about a complex ethical case. The best decision, say virtue ethicists in the Aristotelian tradition, is often one that is made by a person of good character who knows the salient facts of the case and can frame the situation appropriately. In this respect ethical decisions and strategic decisions are similar. Rationality plays a role in good ethical decision-making, but virtue ethicists emphasize the importance of intuitions and emotions as well. Virtue ethics suggests a reconciliation of the factual and the normative. Virtues may explain as well as justify actions. The same is true of other psychological states and events. That psychological terms have normative implications does not render them useless in explanation. As Aristotle does not distinguish cleanly between the normative and empirical, so many moral philosophers today reject the is-ought dichotomy. They are prepared to learn from economists, psychologists, and other empirical scientists who offer information about the nature of the good life and of values. Social psychologists who study community or corporate culture suggest a close relationship between organizational and ethical features, much as Aristotle saw a close relationship between politics and ethics. We should infer from all this that in business ethics there is good reason for philosophers and organization scholars to work closely together.

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