The Bystander in Commercial Life: Obliged by Beneficence or Rescue

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    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Liberalist thinking argues that moral agents have a right (or duty) to pursue an ordinary life. It also insists that moral agent can be bystanders. A bystander is involved with morally bad states of affairs in the sense that they are bound by moral duty, but for a non-blameworthy reason. A common view on the morality of commercial life argues that commercial agents cannot and ought not to assume the status of bystander, when confronted with child labor, pollution, or other overwhelmingly big morally bad states of affairs (oMBS). According to the common view, the agent will get overdemanded. In this paper, the overdemandingness charge is interpreted as a criticism of the liberalist position. According to this charge, bystander status must be given up in the market because otherwise the right (or duty) to pursue a personal life is crushed. In this paper, we demonstrate that the overdemandingness charge fails. It does not make sense if bystander status is grounded in the duty of beneficence. It would make sense if the status were grounded in the duty of rescue but that duty does not apply in relation to oMBS. The condition of ‘subjective urgency’ is not fulfilled. Hence, liberalist thinking can withstand the charge of overdemandingness and commercial agents cannot assume a right never to acknowledge bystander status (on account of the overdemandingness argument).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


    • Beneficence
    • Bystander
    • DUTY
    • Morally bad states of affairs
    • Overdemandingness
    • Personal morality
    • Rescue
    • Subjective urgency


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