A Constructivist Approach to Business Ethics

A Constructivist Approach to Business Ethics

A Constructivist Approach to Business Ethics

A Constructivist Approach to Business Ethics

Business ethics operates at the crossroads of various disciplines, inviting perspectives from economists, financiers, sociologists, organizational psychologists and philosophers. Each perspective commands an area of expertise bearing on the subject’s key questions and each employs its own methodological approach when pursuing its answers (Brand 2009; Garriga and Mele´ 2004). <!–more–> Given the variety of methods found in the literature, it is surprising that ‘‘constructivism’’ has scarcely appeared, for it is both an increasingly important approach in normative theory and particularly effective at explaining how moral theory might suitably cover a variety of cases without sacrificing exact guidance on specific issues.1 This challenge is especially pronounced in applied ethics, where the purpose of applying ethical theory to practice is to inform practitioners of appropriate action in particular cases. If moral principles are too abstract, they are unlikely to perform their expected action-guiding function. If they are too specific, they will perform their expected function in too few instances. The challenge is to translate abstract theory into a workable tool for business practitioners (Hasnas 1998, pp. 19–20). The relationship between normative principles and the facts comprising particular cases has received close attention in political philosophy in recent years (Cohen 2008; Sen 2009). Some of this work explores the issue anew by developing a contextual approach to justice (Miller 2002). Contextual approaches treat diverse normative issues in terms of fine-grained, bottom–up investigations, rather than systematically as part of—and answered in terms of—an overarching ethical theory. The idea is that a bottom–up analysis can better expose how principles fit their context of application, thereby justifying concrete principles while preserving universal reach.

From “A Constructivist Approach to Business Ethics” by Michael Buckley

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