Abstract:Business activities considerably affect the fate and survival of natural ecosystems and the life conditions of present and future generations. In the light of Hans Jonas' theory of responsibility we can state that business has a one-way, non-reciprocal duty to care for the beings affected by its functioning. To become a fully ethical enterprise, business must be carried out in sustainable, pro-social and futureenhancing ways. The practice of ethical business is not a luxury. It is a requirement for modern business to survive in a world of largescale ecological disruption and social disintegration.
Because the impact of today's business is global, its responsibility is global, too. In terms of market capitalization or turnover, transnational corporations are bigger than many national economies. They operate in distant countries and regions while affecting local ecosystems and cultures considerably. Also, business organizations employ technologies (biotechnologies, for example) that irreversibly change the life of communities worldwide.
To catalyze the development of a global management ethos, it is necessary to study the nature of moral responsibility in the context of the ecological, technological and social realities of our age. The most comprehensive theory of moral responsibility is presented by the German-American philosopher Hans Jonas in his magnum opus The Imperative of Responsibility (1979, 1984).
Jonas was born in Germany in 1903 and tutored under Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Rudolf Bultman. Jonas began his philosophical work on Gnosticism and its role in the development of late Antiquity. Jonas taught philosophy at The New School for Social Research during the post-war period for decades. He published the German version of his theory of responsibility in 1979, under the title ‘Das Prinzip Verantwortung. Versuch einer Ethic für die Technologische Zivilization’ (Jonas 1979). Th e rewritten and enlarged English edition was published in 1984 under the title ‘The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age’ (Jonas 1984).
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2006