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Personhood, Collective Intention and Corporate Moral Responsibility

Radtke, Allen E (2019) Personhood, Collective Intention and Corporate Moral Responsibility. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This study in applied ethics addresses whether the ontology of corporations as rights-bearing artificial legal persons allows them to be held morally responsible as unitary entities and members of the moral community, or if their status requires ascription of moral responsibility to reduce to their individual participants. I argue that moral responsibility is ascribable to corporations not on the basis of their agency as metaphysical natural persons but as irreducible non-agential intentional systems. The moral issue is illustrated through a case study of the global financial crisis of 2007-08. Legal personhood is essential for understanding corporations because they are legally constructed, not natural. Personhood is fundamental for corporate accumulation of constitutional rights in US law. However, the dominant aggregation legal theory treats corporations as non-entity fictions reducible to only their participants. While the law suffers theoretical indeterminacy about responsibility, corporations act collectively and intentionally. There are two views of corporate collective intention: 'state-of-mind' (SoM) and 'course-of-action' (CoA). SoM requires that the nature of collective agents sufficiently conform to a natural agent for ascription of responsibility. CoA concerns itself with what the entity plans and executes and its consequences, even if it is an intentional system. I argue CoA of intentional systems resolves problems of corporate moral responsibility because they are conversable members of the moral community. I conclude we may assign moral responsibility to corporations as unitary non-agential intentional systems, and not only to individual participants. The metaphysical question of the ontology of corporations need not be resolved because as collective, juristic intentional systems we can assign moral responsibility to them despite their not having intentional states of mind or agency. To preserve financial stability and democratic processes financial sector corporations must be susceptible to legal, social and moral responsibility.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: corporate moral responsibility; applied ethics; personhood; legal persons; neoliberalism; non-agential intentional systems; corporate ontology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Allen Radtke
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2019 09:42
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2019 09:42
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25337

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