Business Ethics and the Concept of the Tragic

Research Cluster

Speaker:Bogdan Costea and Kostas Amiridis
Date: Thursday 7 March 2013
Time: 4.30pm
Location: Matrix Lecture Theatre

Further details

In this paper, we introduce the concept of the tragic as an additional dimension to address the complexity of business ethics. This argument problematises some of the dominant normative frameworks in mainstream business ethics, in which the ethical is reduced to a set of abstract moral imperatives based on a simplistic dualism between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. On the other hand, the tragic character of ethical life appears as the unfolding of painful and tormenting struggles between equally justifiable but opposing moral standpoints. The tragic offers a lens through which ethics is rooted in the lives, experiences and characters of individuals and collectivities without the possibility of reducing the concerns of those involved to episodes that can be submitted to unambiguous normative frameworks pertaining exclusively to institutional economic processes. The category of the tragic seeks to avoid this reduction and poses the problem of ethics in those complex situations when ‘good’ conflicts with ‘bad’ and when reconciliation cannot be attained without the painful sacrifice of otherwise legitimate ends. From the perspective opened up by the tragic, thinking about moral dilemmas expands considerably to account for the difficulties, complexities and painful uncertainties of those situations when justifiable moral actions and ends collide and whose resolution is only thinkable through sacrifice and loss. These situations are precisely those which are impenetrable and invisible to mainstream normative frameworks in business ethics.