Corporate Moral Duties: Consequentialism, Collective Moral Agency and the “Ought” Implies “Can” Maxim

Leandro Martins Zanitelli

Abstract


The claim according to which corporations are morally responsible is a controversial one. At the same time, it is nowadays common to assign moral duties to companies, especially in work confronting the business and human rights issue. Can companies bear moral duties without being morally responsible? This article presents three different accounts of the duty to follow the course of action with the best consequences (consequentialist duty). The ascription of that duty to business is compatible with the claim that, by not being volitional agents, companies are not morally responsible for anything they do. The paper also addresses two possible objections against the claim that companies bear the duty of taking the course of action with the best consequences. These objections state that corporations are incapable of acting, be it in a general way (i.e. corporations do not possess the moral status of agents), be it regarding particular acts (the objection grounded on the “ought” implies “can” maxim).

Keywords


corporations; moral obligation; consequentialist duty; moral agency; “ought” implies “can”

Full Text:

PDF

References


Arnold DG, 2006. Corporate moral agency Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 30: 279-291.

Arnold DG, 2010. Transnational corporations and the duty to respect basic human rights. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20: 371-99.

Austin JL 1956-1957. A plea for excuses. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 57: 1-30.

Bilchitz D, 2010. Do corporations have positive fundamental rights obligations? Theoria: A Journal of Social & Political Theory, 57:1-35.

Corlett JA, 2001. Collective moral responsibility. Journal of Social Philosophy, 32: 573-584.

Copp D, 2007. The collective moral autonomy thesis. Journal of Social Philosophy, 38: 369-388.

Copp D, 2008. ‘Ought’ implies ‘can’ and the derivation of the principle of alternate possibilities. Analysis, 68: 67-75.

Driver J, 2012. What the objective standard is good for. In Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Volume 2. Edited by Mark Timmons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 28-44.

French, PA, 1979. The corporation as a moral person. American Philosophical Quarterly, 16: 207-215.

Graham PA, 2010. In defense of objectivism about moral obligation. Ethics, 121: 88-115.

Graham PA, 2011. ‘Ought’ and ability. Philosophical Review, 120: 337-382.

Howard-Snyder F, 2006. “Cannot” implies “not ought”. Philosophical Studies, 130: 233-246.

Jackson F, 1991. Decision-theoretic consequentialism and the nearest and dearest objection. Ethics, 101: 461-482.

Kagan S, 2011. Do I make a difference? Philosophy & Public Affairs, 39: 105-141.

Keeley M, 1981. Organizations as non-persons. Journal of Value Inquiry, 15: 149-155.

Killoren D, Williams B, 2013. Group agency and overdetermination. Ethical Theory Moral Practice, 16: 295-307.

Lawford-Smith H, 2012. The feasibility of collectives' actions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90: 453-467.

Mäkelä P, 2007. Collective agents and moral responsibility. Journal of Social Philosophy, 38: 456-468.

Mason E, 2012. Objectivism and prospectivism about rightness. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, 7: 2-21.

Ostrom E. 1990. Governing the Commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pettit P, 2007. Responsibility incorporated. Ethics, 117: 171-201.

Portmore DW, 2007. Consequentializing moral theories. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 88: 39-73.

Railton P, 1984. Alienation, consequentialism, and the demands of morality Philosophy & Public Affairs, 13: 134-171.

Rivera-López E, 2006. Can there be full excuses for morally wrong actions? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53: 124-142.

Stern R, 2004. Does ‘ought’ imply ‘can’? And did Kant think it does? Utilitas, 16: 42-61.

Streumer B, 2007. Reasons and impossibility. Philosophical Studies, 136: 351-384.

United Nations, 2008. Protect, respect and remedy: a framework for business and human rights. Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, John Ruggie, A/HRC/8/5. Human Rights Council, Eighth session [http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/128/61/PDF/G0812861.pdf?OpenElement]

van de Poel I, 2011. The relation between forward-looking and backward-looking responsibility. In Moral Responsibility: beyond free will and determinism. Edited by Vincent N, van de Poel I, van den Hoven J. Dordrecht: Springer, 37-52.

Velasquez M, 2003. Debunking corporate moral responsibility. Ethics, 13: 531-562.

Vranas PBM, 2007. I ought, therefore I can. Philosophical Studies, 136: 167-216.

Wettstein F, 2010. For better or for worse: corporate responsibility beyond “do no harm”. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20: 275-83.

Wettstein F, 2012. Silence as complicity: elements of a corporate duty to speak out against the violation of human rights. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22: 37-61.

Wood S, 2012. The case for leverage-based corporate human rights responsibility. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22: 63-98.

Zimmerman MJ, 2004. Another plea for excuses. American Philosophical Quarterly, 41: 259-266.

Zimmerman MJ, 2006. Is moral obligation objective or subjective? Utilitas, 18: 329-361.

Zimmerman MJ, 2008 Living with Uncertainty: the moral significance of ignorance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18533/ijbsr.v3i11.337

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Copyright (c)

 ...........................................................................................................................

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

............................................................................................................................

If you find difficulties in submitting manuscript please forward your doc file to support@thejournalofbusiness.org. Our support team will assist you in submission process and other technical matters.

In order to get notifications on inbox please add  this domain thejournalofbusiness.org in your email safe list.

International journal of business and social research (Print)
ISSN 2164-2540

International journal of business and social research (Online)
ISSN 2164-2559

[International Journal of Business and Social Research (IJBSR) previously published by MIR Center for Socio-Economic Research, MD, USA. From February 2018 this journal is published by the LAR Center Press, OR, USA]