Thursday, August 26, 2004

IR and CR

In an interesting though far from simple article, Will Barret (Research Fellow with the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne) explains that the notion of CR dominates business ethics, in education and in practice. The relationship between the moral R. of corporations and that of their individual and collective members is an ongoing philosophical issue, ultimately riding on theories of moral agency. Whether corporations possess moral agency or not, C. activity undeniably has morally significant effects. In the article Barret discusses moral R. and how it gives rise to accountability. He then outlines the connection between R. and moral agency, and associated theoretical difficulties. Barret finally gives 5 reasons why corporations can be accountable without necessarily being able to make rational decisions:

  1. First, and perhaps a little facetiously, Barret recommends you look at some C. mission statements. They invariably mention the corporation's aims, commitments, and activities. They talk as if the corporation has the properties required for rational decision-making.
  2. Second, we describe systems and processes as rational in cases where no individual or collective could have produced the outcome.
  3. Third, allowing that only the members of corporations have the required capacity, C. accountability might emerge from individual capacity, without being reducible to it. The idea that corporations are accountable doesn't require a theory of C. agency, but rather a causal history.
  4. Fourth, corporations satisfy whatever is required to meet the demands of legal accountability, so we already have a sense of C. accountability.
  5. Fifth, and finally, a corporation can be morally accountable for some state of affairs without having the capacity for rational-decision making, as long as people who possess that capacity can meet the demands of accountability on behalf of the corporation. Those people may themselves not be morally responsible for the relevant state of affairs.

Read Barret's full argumentation