AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

An investigation of the libertarian philosophy, applied to business ethics

by Cornelius Johannes Hattingh

Institution: Stellenbosch University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Business ethics; Libertarianism; Nozick, Robert  – Anarchy, state and utopia; UCTD
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2076239
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98864


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Libertarianism, as a broad philosophy and frame of thinking, is concerned with one core concept, that of personal liberty; specifically, the liberty of each person to live according to her own choices, with the caveat that she does not attempt to coerce other people and/or prevent them from freely living according to their own individual choices. This view of human beings, and by extension what constitutes im/moral behaviour, also includes what sorts of role(s) the state is justified in playing in people’s lives – when it comes to issues within business ethics, libertarians hold that they should be resolved from within instead of via state-intervention. Libertarianism, as a popular philosophy, has gained more and more traction over the past few years across the world, and especially in the United States, and it could possibly challenge other perspectives on government action in the years to come (Croucher, 2014). The field of business ethics offers us many challenges and issues to confront and possibly solve, and the overall goal of this paper will be to assess whether libertarianism can bring anything useful to solving these issues. This thesis will attempt to examine and understand the libertarian philosophy and where it might lack certain points of justification and to then judge whether those points can be surpassed or whether they are fatal for the perspective itself. The case for libertarianism, as advocated for by the philosopher Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, will be examined in this paper, with the goal of better understanding this particular school of philosophical thought and then applying libertarian principles to the field of business ethics. Instead of a more traditional shareholder or stakeholder view, I will argue that the libertarian lense brings more to the table to aid us in solving, or at least attempting to solve, some issues within the field of business ethics, such as sustainability. Instead of a pragmatic, whichever-method-works-best approach, I believe that a strong, philosophically principled approach can provide a much stronger basis from which to work. Examining the underlying philosophical foundations of documents such as the third King Report in South Africa through this libertarian perspective will prove to be a contextual and highly-relevant exercise, as we need to make sense of these important documents, and the ideas proposed within them, if we are to successfully navigate the business ethics field, both at home and abroad, and to in turn assist other people in doing the same. In addition to using Nozick’s writings, the work of other libertarians will be used to bring different nuances into the discussion. Finally, certain critiques of the libertarian philosophy will be used for the purposes of better examining the philosophy and assessing whether its weaknesses are serious enough to jettison the philosophy instead of advocating in favour of it. AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING:Die libertynse filosofie is gefokus op een sentrale ideë; die van persoonlike… Advisors/Committee Members: Smit, J. P., Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy. Centre for Applied Ethics..