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28-03-2020 | Original Paper | Issue 4/2021

Journal of Business Ethics 4/2021

Moral Pragmatism as a Bridge Between Duty, Utility, and Virtue in Managers’ Ethical Decision-Making

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics > Issue 4/2021
Authors:
Matej Drašček, Adriana Rejc Buhovac, Dana Mesner Andolšek
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Abstract

The decline of empirical research on ethical decision-making based on ethical theories might imply a tacit consensus has been reached. However, the exclusion of virtue ethics, one of the three main normative ethical theories, from this stream of literature calls this potential consensus into question. This article investigates the role of all three normative ethical theories—deontology, utilitarianism and virtue ethics—in ethical decision-making of corporate executives. It uses virtue ethics as a dependent variable thus studying the interconnectivity of all three normative ethical theories in specific circumstances. We find that managers use different ethical theories in different circumstances (business vs. private life, formal vs informal ethical leadership, etc.). A predictive model of ethical decision-making, however, cannot be established. We also find that only a limited number of variables influence the choice of ethical theory, which leans business ethics towards postmodern management paradigm. We suggest that moral pragmatism could provide the answer to ethical decision-making.

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