Limitations and Questions

Neither Virtue nor Value seems to provide a completely adequate account of ethics from a Christian standpoint. This should hardly be surprising, considering that both notions depend on theories that are not governed by a Christian understanding of the world. However, we should not be too quick to completely dismiss either of these ethical theories. An adequate and The Corporation Movie PosterChristian ethical theory will need to capture the insights of both virtue and value ethics, and go further in seeking to explain the nature of morality in theologically centred world.

Virtue Ethics draws our attention to the importance of the Ethical Subject but fails to adequately conceive of that subject as a being in relation to the world, or as a being with an eschatological future – not just a formal Cause.

The concept of ‘Value’ and the Consequentialist ethical tradition is a compass without a magnetic Pole. Judging and Valuing are fruitless activities without an ‘already judged’ End for which to aim. We do not know what to value without knowing what kind of beings we are.

Something more is needed.

And further question needs to be raised,
Ethical discussions generally operate at the level of the individual Ethical Subject. However, our ethical theories are just as often applied to corporate entities – Churches, Businesses, Schools, Universities, and so on.

Can an organisation be an Ethical Person? Does ethics operate differently for corporations than individuals?
We are well aware that we grant the status of ‘Legal Persons’ to Corporations, however, this appears to have developed as a convenient fiction to allow corporations to enjoy property rights, and give individuals civil redress against corporations for tortious actions.
However, it is not clear that we regard corporate entities as Ethical Subjects independently of the actions of their directors and employees. When we think about corporate ethics, are we concerned with the qualities, behaviours, and objectives of the directors and employees, or with the qualities, behaviours, and objectives of the corporation itself?

It may be that individual and corporate ethics will blend into each other to a large degree, yet it may also be productive to remember the potential complexity of the Ethical Subject.

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One thought on “Limitations and Questions

  1. interesting post.

    When we think about corporate ethics, are we concerned with the qualities, behaviours, and objectives of the directors and employees, or with the qualities, behaviours, and objectives of the corporation itself?

    And what about a government? Is there an ethical responsibility for the systemic effects of social policies?

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