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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?

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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Only a person can have morals

"Moral responsibility" is big business so transparently attempting to seem human-like or good while ultimately missing the entire meaning of the phrase itself. Only an individual can enact in a "moral" way, while a big company cannot possibly inhabit the inner morality of each and every one of its employees.

Context

For something or someone to have morals, it must have the ability to know right from wrong. Only people know right from wrong. Therefore, only people can have morals.

The Argument

For something to have morals, it must be able to separate right from wrong and feel guilt when it does something wrong. To claim that a corporation has some sort of "moral responsibility" completely corrupts the definition of "moral" and takes on humanistic qualities that are not actually present. A corporation does not know right from wrong and cannot feel guilt.[1] Individuals within a corporation can possess their own respective sets of morals, but a corporation is not a sentient entity with an ability to feel things, especially things so intrinsically tied to human emotion and ethics. Therefore, a corporation cannot have morals.

Counter arguments

"Moral responsibility" does not necessarily denote humanistic moral qualities to an entire corporate entity, it just raises the individuals within that corporate structure to a higher moral standard. The people within large companies, especially those towards the top, do have morals and know right from wrong. Moral responsibility should guide them in making decisions regarding the well-being of their customers and their employees. A corporation that is morally responsible teaches its working people right from wrong.

Proponents

Framing

Corporations are not people. They therefore cannot hold morals.

Premises

[P1] To have morals, the entity must be able to separate right from wrong. [P2] Only people can separate right from wrong, not corporations. [P3] Therefore, only people can have morals.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] "Moral responsibility" defines the individuals within a corporation acting morally, not the entire corporate entity itself. Individuals can determine right from wrong within the corporate structure, affecting their employees and customers. [Rejecting P3] People can have morals within a corporation, hence that corporation's "moral responsibility."

References

  1. https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/can-corporations-held-morally-responsible/
This page was last edited on Monday, 6 Jul 2020 at 17:25 UTC

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