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Toward a foundational normative method in business ethics

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Business ethics as an applied inquiry requires an expanded normative method which allows both philosophical and religious ethical considerations to be employed in resolving complex issues or cases. The proposed foundational normative method provides a comprehensive framework composed of major philosophical and religious ethical theories. An extensive rationale from the current trends in business ethics and metaethical considerations supports the development of this method which is illustrated in several case studies. By using this method, scholars and business persons gain greater certitude about the ethical quality of their deliberations and decision making than what may be achieved with current nonsystematic or nascent normative methods.

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Lester F. Goodchild teaches business ethics, religious studies, and history in the School for New Learning at DePaul University. His business experience includes management and consulting in several regional and international corporations. He received his doctorate from the Department of Education at the University of Chicago in 1986. His dissertation described how strategic policy decisions created the missions of three Catholic universities in the midwestern United States from 1842 to 1980.

An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Midwest American Academy of Religion Meeting at George Williams College, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on April 8, 1983. I would like to thank William K. Frankena, Dennis McCann, Robert Cooke, Thomas McMahon, C. S. V., Patricia H. Werhane, and James A. O'Donohoe for their helpful comments in its revision.

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Goodchild, L.F. Toward a foundational normative method in business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 5, 485–499 (1986).

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  • Decision Making
  • Economic Growth
  • Business Ethic
  • Applied Inquiry
  • Normative Method