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Rethinking Right: Moral Epistemology in Management Research


  • Tae Wan Kim

    (Carnegie Mellon University)

  • Thomas Donaldson

    (University of Pennsylvania)


Most management researchers pause at the threshold of objective right and wrong. Their hesitation is understandable. Values imply a “subjective,” personal dimension, one that can invite religious and moral interference in research. The dominant epistemological camps of positivism and subjectivism in management stumble over the notion of moral objectivity. Empirical research can study values in human behavior, but hard-headed scientists should not assume that one value can be objectively better than another. In this article, we invite management researchers to rethink this presumption. We show how accepting at least a limited form of moral objectivity, namely, an epistemic orientation that seeks objective moral reasons, can benefit management research by 1. guiding research practice; 2. using patterns of moral objectivity as clues for formulating empirical hypotheses for psychological explanations; and 3. adding prescriptive power to empirical theories.

Suggested Citation

  • Tae Wan Kim & Thomas Donaldson, 2018. "Rethinking Right: Moral Epistemology in Management Research," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 148(1), pages 5-20, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:148:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10551-015-3009-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-015-3009-2

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    Cited by:

    1. Masoud Shadnam & Andrey Bykov & Ajnesh Prasad, 2021. "Opening Constructive Dialogues Between Business Ethics Research and the Sociology of Morality: Introduction to the Thematic Symposium," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 170(2), pages 201-211, May.
    2. Tae Wan Kim & Alan Scheller-Wolf, 2019. "Technological Unemployment, Meaning in Life, Purpose of Business, and the Future of Stakeholders," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 160(2), pages 319-337, December.
    3. Thomas Donaldson, 2023. "Value creation and CSR," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 93(6), pages 1255-1275, August.

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