, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 227-232

Business ethics, ideology, and the naturalistic fallacy

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Abstract

This paper addresses the relationship between theoretical and applied ethics. It directs philosophical attention toward the concept of ‘ideology’, conceived as a bridge between high-level principles and decision-making practice. How are we to understand this bridge and how can we avoid the naturalistic fallacy while taking ideology seriously?

It is then suggested that the challenge posed by ideology in the arena of organizational ethics is in many ways similar to the challenge posed by developmentalist accounts of moral ‘stages’ in the arena of individual ethics, namely, how to account for the normative force of frameworks that are theoretically derivative yet practically essential.

Kenneth E. Goodpaster (A.B. mathematics, University of Notre Dame; Ph.D. philosophy, University of Michigan) has taught moral philosophy, both theoretical and applied, for the past ten years. In 1980 he joined the faculty of Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration where, as Associate Professor, he teaches and does research on ethical aspects of organizational policy. His interests include the interfaces between ethics and psychology, biology and management studies. His publications include articles in a wide variety of journals (e.g., the Journal of Philosophy, Ethics, Environmental Ethics, Harvard Business Review), and five books: Perspectives on Morality: Essays of William Frankena (1976), Ethics and Problems of the 21st Century (1979), Values, Regulation, and the Public Interest (1980), Ethics in Mangement (1984), and Policies and Persons (1985). Work in progress includes a monograph on management and moral philosophy.