Law as Rationalization: Getting Beyond Reason to Business Ethics
62 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2006
Embedded in the way we use the law is the tendency of human reason to justification; in the words of one philosopher, a thirst for rationality [that] is a major source of lies. I contend that this tendency is exacerbated by the conflation of what is knowable as a matter of science, and that which we might believe is normative. I rely on Kant's critique of theoretical and practical reason to assess claims to objectivity in social science approaches to law, and to suggest it is not surprising that the operation of theoretical and practical reason would tend to the conflation of the descriptive and the normative. When we understand the illusions of which reason is capable, we may be more circumspect about claims of objective knowledge and more willing to challenge assertions of a single right answer on normative issues (the modus operandi of most legal argumentation).
Nevertheless, we have a sense that there are objective standards of right and wrong, bespeaking right answers, if not single right answers, on difficult issues, and these are the basis for ethics, if not law. How does one bring broad universalisms down to practical application, and have the confidence one's judgments are right, and not someone else's view of dogmatism? I discuss the mystery that lies behind the process of judgment, and conclude that the best check against the illusions of reason is our ability to have a relation with, and understand the viewpoints of, others. In particular, I consider Buber's concept of dialogue, and how it might affect common types of ethical decisions in business.
Keywords: business ethics, reason, Kant, Buber, judgment
JEL Classification: K10, K20, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation