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

Yes, corporations should have moral responsibility Show more Show less

Corporations are conversible agents. Their message can be different from that of the individuals that make up the corporation. They also erode individuality. Therefore, corporations must have defined morals to fill the ethical space left by the individual.
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Corporations are conversable agents

Corporations are able to use their voice to convey their objectives and mission statement. Therefore, they should have moral agency that guides that voice.
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Corporations are able to effectively communicate their mission statement and values to the public. This means they are autonomous, conversable agents.

The Argument

A company or brand can control the message it communicates to the public. Through this message, it can communicate its values, goals and mission statement. Because corporations are conversable agents, they have moral responsibility. They have a voice that is different from that of their employees. Therefore, the corporation should have a set of morals that reflect its voice.[1]

Counter arguments

The implications of this is that no individual can be held responsible for ethically dubious behaviour. If the corporation has a message, and that message or voice is not having a positive social or environmental impact, because the corporation is a conversable agent with communicative autonomy, no individual can be held accountable within the corporation. This would make it impossible to punish any individual in a case of corporations breaking the law or committing morally wrong acts


Entities with their own voice or message autonomy should have morals. Corporations have a voice that is distinct from that of their employees. Therefore, they should have morals.


[P1] Entities that have a voice should have morals that guide that voice. [P2] Corporations have a unique voice that is distinct from the individuals in the corporation. [P3] Therefore, corporations should have morals.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] If you separate the corporation's voice from that of the individual, you cannot punish individual wrongdoers.




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This page was last edited on Thursday, 9 Apr 2020 at 09:14 UTC

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