‘No body to kick, no soul to damn’…and yet: The modern corporation as moral agent
I argue that the large, complex, and highly organized entities typified by modern corporations are moral agents in their own right. I begin with the claim that there is such an entity, distinct from and irreducible to the individual human agents that it comprises. I then argue that this entity is capable of having beliefs and desires in its own right and acting on the basis of those intentional states. I explore different ways of understanding the relationship between the corporate entity, its intentionality, and the human members that form its base, concluding that the corporate entity is “constituted” by its members and that corporate intentionality “coincides” with its base. I then argue that the entity as I have shown it to be is capable of moral agency due to its capacities for thought and a first person perspective (though it also meets more demanding standards proposed in the literature). In the final chapter I consider difficulties with individualist accounts, and the implications for some of the serious moral issues we face today, especially the environmental ones which – I argue – can only be effectively addressed by action at the corporate level.