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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 10, 2013

David Ohreen
Pages 231-260
DOI: 10.5840/jbee20131012

Rationalism and a Vygotskian Alternative to Business Ethics Education

Studies have shown ethics education has not systematically improved the moral reasoning of business students and professionals and, therefore, its effectiveness should be seen as deeply questionable. Business ethics education has limited effect, in part, because it rests on rationalistic traditions within normative ethics, business theory, and cognitive psychology. Emphasis is usually placed on student’s rationally thinking about issues as a way of improving their critical analysis and reasoning skills. Yet by focusing primarily on its cognitive dimension, ethics education has tended to underdetermine the importance of social interaction in moral development. As an alternative to traditional business ethics education, using the work of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, I argue, that peer influence through a dialogical process is a better way to enhance and improve the moral reasoning and judgement of individuals. More specifically, small-group dialogue with peers encourages deep reflection about business dilemmas and has a direct influence on how one thinks about ethics.

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