Skip to main content


Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective

Norman E. Bowie

ISBN: 978-0-631-21174-7 January 1999 Wiley-Blackwell 196 Pages


This book provides essential reading for anyone with an academic or professional interest in business ethics today.

1. The Self-Defeating Nature of Immoral Business Practice.

Introduction Immoral Actions Are Based on Self-Defeating Maxims Inconsistency and Immorality Applications to Business.

It Seems Right in Theory But Does It Work in Practice?.

Objections to the Application of Kantian Ethics to Business.

Extending the Reach of Categorical Imperatives: Pragmatically Inconsistent Maxims.

Why Neither Being Trustworthy nor Not Trusting in Business Involves a Pragmatic Contradiction.

Transition to Chapter 2.

2. Treating the Humanity of Stakeholders as Ends rather than as Means Merely.


The Respect for Persons Principle.

Not Using Employees: Neither Coercion nor Deceit.

Business Practices That Reduce or Remove Coercion and Deception.

An Objection and Replies.

Positive Freedom ad Meaningful Work: Respecting the Humanity in a Person.

Kant’s Reflection s on Work.

Meaningful Work and Contemporary Business.

3. The Firm as a Moral Community.


Viewing Organizations and Human Nature.

Creating the Kantian Moral Firm: The Kingdom of Ends Formulation of the Categorical Imperative.

The Principles of a Moral Firm.

Implications for Organizational Studies.

4. Acting from Duty: How Pure a Motive.


Kant’s Position on the Purity of Moral Motives.

Strategic Payoffs and Moral Motives.

Reasons and Emotions: A Brief Aside.

Multiple Moral Motives.

5. The Cosmopolitan Perspective.


The Morality of the Market.

International Business Can Contribute to World Peace, Universal Rights, and Democracy.

Objections and Replies.



Further Reading.


"Bowie is a very senior person in business ethics - one of the half dozen or so people who are generally acknowledged as leaders in the field. He has extensive experience as a writer, teacher, and consultant in business ethics and philosophy. I have no doubt that his book will be well received, widely reviewed, and extremely influential in the discipline." Robert Fredericks, Bentley College.

  • Provides a mainstream (non-Marxist) criticism of fundamental foundations of capitalism.

  • Shows how firms managed by Kantian ethical principles can make money.

  • Presents the systematic application of the ethical principles of major ethical theorists to business.