The Virtues Appropriate to Business

Business Ethics Quarterly 5 (4):833-842 (1995)
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Robert Solomon has presented a version of business ethics in terms of virtues theory. It is a good thing that business ethics should be understood in terms of virtues theory, but the account that Solomon gives is seriously misleading in important respects. "A virtue is a pervasive trait of character that allows one to 'fit into' a particular society and to excel in it," he says. This is something that we might query: what a society will recognize as a virtue might well be what fits that formula, but sometimes we shall want to recognize as a virtue what enabled somebody to stand out against his or her society and change it, and shall want to say that those traits that enable somebody to fit happily into (say) a slave society are vices rather than virtues. That is to say, a society's recognition of virtues, its application of virtues theory in picking out various character traits as valuable, will depend on other judgments common in that society, and we might well differ from that society in those judgments.


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