Corporate Crocodile Tears? On the Reactive Attitudes of Corporate Agents

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):273–298 (2017)
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Abstract

Recently, a number of people have argued that certain entities embodied by groups of agents themselves qualify as agents, with their own beliefs, desires, and intentions; even, some claim, as moral agents. However, others have independently argued that fully-fledged moral agency involves a capacity for reactive attitudes such as guilt and indignation, and these capacities might seem beyond the ken of “collective” or “ corporate ” agents. Individuals embodying such agents can of course be ashamed, proud, or indignant about what the agent has done. But just as an entity needs to have its own beliefs, desires, and intentions to qualify as a bona fide agent, the required capacity for reactive attitudes is a capacity to have one’s own reactive attitudes. If fully-fledged moral agency requires reactive attitudes, the corporate agent must itself be capable of guilt and indignation. In this paper, we argue that at least certain corporate agents are. Or, more precisely, we argue that if there are bona fide corporate agents, these agents can have the capacities that are both associated with guilt and indignation and plausibly required for moral agency; in particular certain epistemic and motivational capacities

Author Profiles

Kendy Hess
College of the Holy Cross
Gunnar Björnsson
Stockholm University

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