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The moral status of the corporation


Corporations are moral persons to the extent that they have rights and duties, but their moral personality is severely limited. As artificial persons, they lack the emotional make-up that allows natural persons to show virtues and vices. That fact, taken with the representative function of management, places significant limitations on what constitutes ethical behavior by management. A common misunderstanding of those limitations can lead ethical managers to behave unethically and can lead the public to have improper expectations of corporations.

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Bob Ewin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at The University of Western Australia. He is the author of Co-operation and Human Values(1981), Liberty, Community, and Justice(1987), and Virtues and Rights: The Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes(forthcoming).

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Ewin, R.E. The moral status of the corporation. J Bus Ethics 10, 749–756 (1991).

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  • Economic Growth
  • Significant Limitation
  • Ethical Behavior
  • Moral Status
  • Natural Person