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Should corporations have "moral responsibility"? Show more Show less

With BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, and Apple’s ‘batterygate’, there is no shortage of corporations behaving in a morally reprehensible way to cut costs or increase profits. Should corporations have morals? Are business ethics important? Is it a firm’s collective responsibility to behave in an ethical way?

No, corporations shouldn't have moral responsibility Show more Show less

Corporations are the sum of individual decisions. They don't know right from wrong and cannot be punished. Therefore, it makes far more sense to limit morals to the individual.
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Other collectives don’t have morals

Other groupings of individuals do not have morals. Therefore, corporations shouldn't be expected to have moral agency.
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Context

The Argument

It would be absurd to suggest that a crowd, for example, should have collective morals. A corporation is merely a collection of individuals, in much the same way as a crowd. Any other collection of individuals, be they collected by race, blood (family), or social groups do not need to adopt and implement their own morals. A corporation is essentially a collection of individuals. It is a grouping of people that work together towards a shared goal, much like a family unit, or a racial unit. If these other collectives don’t need shared, publicly-declared morals, why does a corporation?

Counter arguments

Corporations are not like any other grouping of individuals. They differ because of their shared access to information and the level of control they have over their employees. For example, consider a crowd. A crowd does not need morals because it lacks control over the individuals within the collective, and it lacks access to information. If someone gets trampled to death in a crowd, the crowd could not be accused of collective responsibility because, in all likelihood, only those around the victim knew the incident was occurring, and they were almost certainly powerless to stop it. In a case of corporate immorality, like the Volkswagen emissions scandal, the company knew what was happening, and had the power to stop it. This means it meets different criteria and should have its own values.[1]

Framing

A corporation is nothing beyond a collective of individuals working towards a shared goal. Other collectives of individuals don’t require morals. If other similar entities don’t need publicly-declared morals, then corporations shouldn’t.

Premises

[P1] A corporation is just a collection of individuals working towards a shared goal. [P2] Other collections of individuals do not have morals. [P3] Therefore, corporations do not need to have morals.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] A corporation is more than a collection of individuals.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://knowledge.insead.edu/responsibility/the-moral-responsibility-of-firms-for-or-against-3243

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 9 Apr 2020 at 09:15 UTC