The Radical Behavioral Challenge and Wide-Scope Obligations in Business

von Kriegstein H.

Journal of Business Ethics, vol.177, no.3, pp.507-517, 2022 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 177 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10551-020-04716-w
  • Journal Name: Journal of Business Ethics
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, ABI/INFORM, Business Source Elite, Business Source Premier, Communication & Mass Media Index, Communication Abstracts, EBSCO Education Source, EconLit, Education Abstracts, Gender Studies Database, PAIS International, Philosopher's Index, Psycinfo, Public Affairs Index, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.507-517
  • Keywords: Bounded ethicality, Ought implies can, Wide-scope obligations, Business ethics denial, Skepticism about business ethics
  • TED University Affiliated: No


© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature.This paper responds to the Radical Behavioral Challenge (RBC) to normative business ethics. According to RBC, recent research on bounded ethicality shows that it is psychologically impossible for people to follow the prescriptions of normative business ethics. Thus, said prescriptions run afoul of the principle that nobody has an obligation to do something that they cannot do. I show that the only explicit response to this challenge in the business ethics literature (due to Kim et al.) is flawed because it limits normative business ethics to condemning practitioners’ behavior without providing usable suggestions for how to do better. I argue that a more satisfying response is to, first, recognize that most obligations in business are wide-scope which, second, implies that there are multiple ways of fulfilling them. This provides a solid theoretical grounding for the increasingly popular view that we have obligations to erect institutional safeguards when bounded ethicality is likely to interfere with our ability to do what is right. I conclude with examples of such safeguards and some advice on how to use the research findings on bounded ethicality in designing ethical business organizations.