A Framework for Authentic Ethical Decision Making in the Face of Grand Challenges: A Lonerganian Gradation

Patricia Larres*, Martin Kelly

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper contributes to the contemporary business ethics narrative by proposing an approach to corporate ethical decision making (EDM) which serves as an alternative to the imposition of codes and standards to address the ethical consequences of grand challenges, like COVID-19, which are impacting today’s society. Our alternative approach to EDM embraces the concept of reflexive thinking and ethical consciousness among the individual agents who collectively are the corporation and who make ethical decisions, often in isolation, removed from the collocated corporate setting. We draw on the teachings of the Canadian philosopher and theologian, Fr. Bernard Lonergan, to conceptualize an approach to EDM which focuses on the ethics of the corporate agent by nurturing the universal and invariant structure that is operational in all human beings. Embracing Lonergan’s dynamic cognitive structure of human knowing, and the structure of the human good, we advance a paradigm of EDM in business which emboldens authentic ethical thought, decision making, and action commensurate with virtuous living and germane to human flourishing. Lonergan’s philosophy guides us away from the imposition of over-arching corporate codes of ethics and inspires us, as individual agents, to attend to the data of our own consciousness in our ethical decision making. Such cognitional endowment leads us out of the ethics of the ‘timeless present’ (Islam and Greenwood in Journal of Business Ethics 170: 1–4, 2021) towards ethical authenticity in business, leaving us better placed to reflect upon and address the ethical issues emanating from grand challenges like COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Ethical decision making (EDM)
  • Global crises
  • Lonergan
  • Transcendental precepts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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