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Corporate moral responsibility

Hull, J. D. (2024) Corporate moral responsibility. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00116009


This dissertation argues that corporate moral responsibility can be an element of functioning corporations and is a choice that society can make. Although many in the lay community would say that of course corporations should attend to moral questions, the philosophy of how this can be rightly said is controversial. Section one (first three chapters) gives an account of the nature of functioning business corporations involving the readily observable facts about a corporation doing business, and a tripartite model of the corporation is presented. The tripartite model consists in 1) the legal entity that owns assets and liabilities, 2) a group of persons contracted to the legal entity and 3) a set of roles and relationships between the corporate associates and the legal entity. Additionally, an account of the main extant theories of the nature of corporations and their inability to account for the readily observable facts of corporations is argued. The conclusion is that the corporation, as a tripartite model, is best served by a theory that designates it as a real entity apart from but dependent on its employees. Chapter three answers the question, ‘What type of real entity is a corporation?’, using John Searle’s theory of social ontology to show that corporations are institutional facts, a social entity. The second part of the thesis argues that corporations have moral dispositions analogous to those held by natural persons and maintains that it is these that allow corporate entities to be capable of moral concern. A constitutive rule is introduced, ‘moral company rule’, that may be used as a guide for society to assess the extent of corporate moral responsibility. An account of the powers and responsibilities corporations would have if the moral company rule was followed is presented. Additionally, the dilemma for society, to insist on corporate moral responsibility or preserve the status quo, is explored. The last chapter recapitulates the argument for corporate moral responsibility to illustrate the two aims of this thesis: first to give a clear understanding of the functioning business corporation as a real entity with a series of moral dispositions, and second to show that society has a choice to insist that these moral dispositions are used in business.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Elson, D. L. J.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Humanities
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:116009
Date on Title Page:November 2023


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