Rethinking the Presupposition of Business Ethics : from an Aristotelian approach to Confucian ethics

Wai Ying WONG

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When we are discussing business ethics or corporate responsibilities, do we refer to certain sets of codes of conduct, or the application of certain moral principles? This discussion relates to the question whether there are differences between corporate morality and individual morality. Is the morality of a corporation merely an extension of that of an individual, and hence do we need only to transfer those moral principles and norms established for individuals to business organizations? If that is the case, then perhaps the reformulation required is only a change from “s/he ought” to “it ought”. One might argue that the scope of individual morality exceeds significantly that of corporate morality in that the former also takes certain stands on personal desires and emotions, or even the meaning of life, from a moral point of view (certainly there are moral theories which do not deal with such problems), but the latter mainly makes moral judgements on issues concerning rights and interests. Apart from this, another distinction between corporate morality and individual morality is generally made by, among the others, business amoralists when they refute that there are moral responsibilities for business organizations. Their argument takes the following form: the concept of conscience or moral motivation, which is the subjective condition for a moral agent, hardly makes sense for an organization, therefore we cannot urge an organization to be moral. Certainly it may be objected that even though an organization may lack conscience, the people in the organization may not. While we are not going to comment on the soundness of this objection here, it should be noted that any attempts of reducing an organization to an agent would minimize the possible distinction of the two kinds of morality in question. On the other hand, the reduction mentioned might not be the only way of rescuing business ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBusiness ethics in theory and practice : contributions from Asia and New Zealand
EditorsPatricia H. WERHANE, Alan E. SINGER
Place of PublicationNetherlands
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9789401592871
ISBN (Print)9789048152735, 9780792358497
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Publication series

NameBusiness Ethics in Theory and Practice
ISSN (Print)0925-6733


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