Acting Out of Compassion, Egoism, and Malice: a Schopenhauerian View on the Moral Worth of CSR and Diversity Management Practices

Köllen, Thomas (2016). Acting Out of Compassion, Egoism, and Malice: a Schopenhauerian View on the Moral Worth of CSR and Diversity Management Practices. Journal of business ethics, 138(2), pp. 215-229. Springer 10.1007/s10551-015-2599-z

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In both their external and internal communications, organizations tend to present diversity management (DM) approaches and corporate social responsibility initiatives as a kind of morally ‘good’ organizational practice. With regard to the treatment of employees, both concepts largely assume equality to be an indicator (as well as a goal) of organizational ‘goodness’, e.g. in terms of equal treatment, or affording equal opportunities. Additionally, research on this issue predominantly refers to prescriptive and imperative moralities that address the initiatives themselves, and values them morally. Schopenhauer opposes these moralities by conceptualizing morality as exclusively being based on the incentives of acting instead of the actions themselves. He identifies egoism, compassion, and malice as the sole incentives for every human action, whereby only those actions solely motivated by compassion can be ascribed genuine moral worth. In this context, this article shows that from a Schopenhauerian perspective, CSR and DM initiatives only have a genuine moral worth in so far as the individuals who have initiated or supported their implementation were exclusively motivated by compassion. Stressing the narrative of a business case, if utilized as a façade for true compassion that attaches economic legitimacy to these initiatives, does not necessarily harm their moral worth. The approach and the findings developed in this paper contribute to the discourse on the ethical behavior of organizations, as well as to the discourse on CSR and DM.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Organization and Human Resource Management > Human Resource Management

UniBE Contributor:

Köllen, Thomas


100 Philosophy > 170 Ethics
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services
600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations








Thomas Köllen

Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2018 16:17

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:10

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Business case; Compassion, egoism, and malice; Corporate social responsibility; Diversity management; Justice and loving kindness; Mitleid




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