Bounded ethicality and the principle that 'ought' implies can


Ethics and Business Law

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bounded ethicality; behavioral ethics; normative business ethics; ought implies can


In this article we investigate a philosophical problem for normative business ethics theory suggested by a phenomenon that contemporary psychologists call “bounded ethicality,” which can be identified with the putative fact that well-intentioned people, constrained by psychological limitations, make ethical choices inconsistent with their own ethical beliefs and commitments. When one combines the idea that bounded ethicality is pervasive with the idea that a person morally ought to do something only if she can, it raises a doubt about the practical relevance of the moral principles that business ethics theory prescribes. We call this doubt the Radical Behavioral Challenge. It consists in the idea that people cannot generally conform to the normative ethical principles that business ethics theorists prescribe, and that these principles are therefore practically irrelevant. We answer the Radical Behavioral Challenge and explore normative implications of our answer.

Published in

Business Ethics Quarterly

Citation/Other Information

25 (3) 341-361