Some centers of gravity are finally emerging in the field of business ethics after a decades-long search for action-guiding theories. Among the foremost of these are contractualism and virtue ethics. The former focuses on the morals of economic exchange, the latter on the moral qualities of economic actors. We demonstrate that these dyadic and nodal ethics are not competing contenders to the throne of business ethics, but complementary approaches that are best used in tandem if we want to identify the generic normative core of the field. Specifically, virtue ethicists benefit from contractualists’ aptitude for highlighting the conditions that exchange relationships must meet in order to become vehicles for the pursuit of excellence. In turn, contractualists profit from virtue ethicists’ ability to identify the qualities actors must possess to efficaciously engage in exchange transactions.

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Keywords Aristotle, contractualism, corporate condition, generic normative core, virtue ethics
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Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Organization Studies
Heugens, P.P.M.A.R, Kaptein, S.P, & van Oosterhout, J. (2006). The ethics of the node versus the ethics of the dyad? Reconciling virtue ethics and contractualism. Organization Studies, 27(3), 391–411. doi:10.1177/0170840606062428