Explaining Wrongdoing

Mike W. Martin

in Meaningful Work

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780195133257
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848706 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics

Explaining Wrongdoing

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Just as personal commitments shape the character of professionals, failures of personal commitment and character enter into understanding their wrongdoing. We can distinguish two types of explanations of wrongdoing. Character explanations appeal to features of persons, either general flaws or specific failings manifested in immoral acts. Social explanations, in contrast, appeal to outside structures and pressures that contribute to misconduct, including influences within professions, corporations, and the wider society. This chapter seeks to renew an appreciation of character explanations, distinguishes some of their main varieties, and shows how they complement rather than compete with social explanations. The opening section clarifies how character explanations carry explanatory meaning and why their reference to values does not render them suspect. The concluding section integrates character and social explanations within a virtue-ethics framework for understanding mixed motives in response to multiple social influences, drawing upon and recasting Alasdair MacIntyre's distinctions between internal and external goods and between public and private goods.

Keywords: Alasdair MacIntyre; wrongdoing; character explanations; social explanations; misconduct; social influences; private goods; external goods

Chapter.  7499 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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