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Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 101–114 | Cite as

How Virtue Fits Within Business Ethics

  • J. Thomas Whetstone
Article

Abstract

This paper proposes that managers add an attention to virtues and vices of human character as a full complement to moral reasoning according to a deontological focus on obligations to act and a teleological focus on consequences (a balanced tripartite approach). Even if the criticisms of virtue ethics cloud its use as a mononomic normative theory of justification, they do not refute the substantial benefits of applying a human character perspective – when done so in conjunction with also-imperfect act-oriented perspectives. An interactive tripartite approach is superior for meeting the complex requirements of an applied ethic. To illustrate how deficiencies of a "strong" virtue ethics formulation can be overcome by a balanced tripartite approach, this paper compares normative leadership paradigms (each based on a combination of virtue, deontology, or consequentialist perspectives) and the dangers inherent in each. The preferred paradigm is servant leadership, grounded in a tripartite ethic. Effective application of such an ethics approach in contemporary organizations requires further empirical research to develop a greater understanding of the moral language actually used. Meeting this challenge will allow academics better to assist practicing managers lead moral development and moral reasoning efforts.

act-oriented theories character ethical manager leadership moral language servant leadership tripartite ethics vice virtue virtue ethics 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Thomas Whetstone
    • 1
  1. 1.Davis College of BusinessJacksonville UniversityJacksonvilleU.S.A.

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