Epistemic Vices in Organizations: Knowledge, Truth, and Unethical Conduct

Journal of Business Ethics 160 (1):263-276 (2019)
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Recognizing that truth is socially constructed or that knowledge and power are related is hardly a novelty in the social sciences. In the twenty-first century, however, there appears to be a renewed concern regarding people’s relationship with the truth and the propensity for certain actors to undermine it. Organizations are highly implicated in this, given their central roles in knowledge management and production and their attempts to learn, although the entanglement of these epistemological issues with business ethics has not been engaged as explicitly as it might be. Drawing on work from a virtue epistemology perspective, this paper outlines the idea of a set of epistemic vices permeating organizations, along with examples of unethical epistemic conduct by organizational actors. While existing organizational research has examined various epistemic virtues that make people and organizations effective and responsible epistemic agents, much less is known about the epistemic vices that make them ineffective and irresponsible ones. Accordingly, this paper introduces vice epistemology, a nascent but growing subfield of virtue epistemology which, to the best of our knowledge, has yet to be explicitly developed in terms of business ethics. The paper concludes by outlining a business ethics research agenda on epistemic vice, with implications for responding to epistemic vices and their illegitimacy in practice.

Author's Profile

Christopher Baird
University of Edinburgh


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