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On the Analogy Between Business and Sport: Towards an Aristotelian Response to The Market Failures Approach to Business Ethics

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JournalJournal of Business Ethics
DateAccepted/In press - 16 Jan 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 7 Feb 2021
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1-13
Early online date7/02/21
Original languageEnglish


This paper explores the notion that business calls for an adversarial ethic, akin to that of sport. On this view, because of their competitive structure, both sport and business call for behaviours that are contrary to ‘ordinary morality’, and yet are ultimately justified because of the goods they facilitate. I develop three objections to this analogy. Firstly, there is an important qualitative difference between harms risked voluntarily and harms risked involuntarily. Secondly, the goods achieved by adversarial relationships in sport go beyond the function of sport, i.e. to entertain audiences. Thirdly, the most plausible account of the athlete’s motivational development starts with their love of the sport, which can explain a commitment to the sporting ethics in a way that is not paralleled in business. I close by drawing attention to the ways in which an Aristotelian conception of business ethics may be able to accommodate these objections.

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© 2021, The Author(s).

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