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Philosophy of Management

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2001

One of the Greatest Discoveries

Robin Downie, Jane Macnaughton
Pages 13-20

Must Business Judgements Be Self-Interested?

Judgement is traditionally seen as applicable in two spheres of human endeavour: the theoretical (or the sphere in which we consider both what must be the case and what is likely to be the case) and the practical (or the sphere in which we consider what we ought to do, either because it is in our interests or because morality requires it). Now insofar as we are speaking of 'judgement' two conceptual assumptions are being made. Firstly, we are assuming that there are imponderables and complexity, and secondly, despite the imponderables and complexity, that there is still room for the exercise of reason. Granted this view of judgement we can state our two main theses. Firstly, we shall argue that, despite the pressures of market forces, employee needs, and shareholder interests, there is still room in business practice for judgements so understood. Secondly, we shall argue that these judgements need not inevitably be directed down the single track of the financial interests of the company and its shareholders. The second thesis can be understood as a moral thesis in either of two ways. Either it can be seen as the thesis that companies have broad social responsibilities extending well beyond the immediate interests of the company, or as the thesis that companies share the social interests of the communities to which they belong; they are citizens writ large, to gloss Plato.

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