Applying virtue ethics to business: The agent-based approach By: John Dobson
It ca be argued that the presence of what are in a slightly old-fashioned terminology called virtues in fact plays a significant role in the operation of the economic system.
- Kenneth Arrow
There are two basic approaches to integrating ethics in business: the action-based approach, and the agent-based approach. The traditional approach is action-based in that it focusses on developing rules or guidelines to constrain management's actions. These rules or guidelines generally manifest themselves in corporate codes-of-conduct, or codes-of-ethics.
Contrarily, rather than the action-based focus on rules governing action, the agent-based approach concerns the fundamental character and motivations of the individual agent. Under the agent-based approach, moral behavior is not limited to adherence to a rule or guideline but rather involves the individual rationally pursuing moral excellence as a goal in and of itself. In essence, ethics becomes central to the rationality concept as an objective rather than a constraint: "something positively good, ..something to be sought after" (Ladd, 1991, p. 82).
Agent-based approaches generally derive their philosophical foundation from virtue-ethics theory. This theory is attracting increasing interest from business ethicists. In essence, the 'virtue' in virtue-ethics is defined as some desirable character trait, such as courage, that lies between two extremes, such as rashness and cowardice. Thus the 'virtuous' agent is involved in a continual quest to find balance in decision-making. Such an agent does not apply any specific 'rules' in making decisions, but rather attempts to make decisions that are consistent with the pursuit of a particular kind of excellence that in turn entails exercising sound moral judgement guided by such 'virtues' as courage, wisdom, temperance, fairness, integrity, and consistency. Rather than stepping...
References: Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press (1991 ed.).
Aristotle, The Politics, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press (1991 ed.).
Slote, Michael, 1992 From Morality to Virtue, New York: Oxford University press
Solomon, Robert C.; 1992 "Corporate Roles, Personal Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach to Business Ethics" Business Ethics Quarterly 2, 317-339.
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