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The Ethical Organisation

  • Alan Kitson
  • Robert Campbell
Chapter

Abstract

People, with very few exceptions,1 are moral agents. In other words, their actions are governed by rules, explicit or implicit, which can be subjected to ethical appraisal. We may praise them for being courageous, charitable, just, sensitive, or magnanimous, or we may condemn their foolishness, envy or deviousness. We may neither praise nor blame, but wonder whether they were not fully responsible for what they did. Perhaps they were coerced or pressured or, perhaps, just did not know what they were doing. This language of moral evaluation does not only apply to adult human beings, but that is its primary and most typical use. Children may be selfish or act unfairly, but we accept that they only gradually acquire full moral responsibility for their actions. Animals, too, may be courageous or altruistic, but we may suspect a degree of anthropomorphism in extending moral language too far in their direction. The moral status of animals is a matter of debate, but no one thinks butterflies can have or lack charity or that jackdaws are dishonest. The rest of the world lies outside the moral realm altogether, except, perhaps, for our moral responsibilities towards it. Rocks and stones and trees do not have moral responsibilities.

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Copyright information

© Alan Kitson and Robert Campbell 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Kitson
  • Robert Campbell

There are no affiliations available

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