Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kant, Revisited

Revisiting the discussion of the impact of the ideas of the German philospher Immanuel Kant on the way business ethics is taught, I received the following email from philosopher Nicholas Capaldi, the Legendre-Soule Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Nick's email told me I have more to learn and like about Kant, but I'm not likely to learn it while reading books on business ethics.

"Business ethicists have misinterpreted Kant. Kant was a classical liberal; this comes out clearly in his historical essays. Most business ethicists are second-rate philosophers who invoke abstractions from philosophical literature without really understanding them.

One could argue, on Kantian grounds, that the redistribution of wealth is treating some individuals as means and not as ends."

In a sense, business ethicists who inappropriately borrow ideas from philosophy are like economists who inappropriately borrow equations from physics. Each tries to gain intellectual respectability for his own work by mimicking the terminology and methodology of another, more respected field of study.

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