Kant's Humanistic Business Ethics
24 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 25, 2010
In this article I investigate how Kant’s philosophy contributes universalistic arguments in favor of a humanistic ethics. Kant moved the idea of freedom to the center of his philosophy, arguing that from a reflection on the nature of human freedom a self-critical assessment of its morally appropriate use could be gleaned. Therein, that is, in construing his ethics from (subjective) self-reflection rather than resting it on presumed (objective) values, and in construing norms of interpersonal validity from the individual perspective (‘bottom-up’) rather than through (‘top-down’) references to prearranged ethical or metaphysical orders, lies Kant’s innovation in ethics theory.
For Kant, our knowledge about human nature does not precede the search for moral truth but results from our quest for a life in integrity. His is a procedural humanism, i.e. a philosophy whose humanistic ethics arises from the ways and procedures by which persons seek the good. Thus Kant steered clear of the Skylla of moral relativism as well as of the Charybdis of an “one-size-fits-all’-ethics, which threaten all materialistic approaches to ethical theory. Cognizant that context impacts content, Kant decided instead in favor of a formal approach to ethics, universalistic in procedures and structures but open to differentiation as to the regional and temporal specificities of application. This is what makes his ethics relevant beyond the historical constellations and confines of his works. After introducing into the context, anthropological basis, and methodology of Kant’s ethics (in sections 1-3), we discuss its moral and legal dimensions (4), his theory of politics (5) and the applicability of his ethics to contemporary business (6).
Keywords: Immanuel Kant, Humanistic Management, Human Nature, Human Resources Management, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Freedom, Autonomy, Dignity
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