Can there be an Ethics for Institutional Agents?

Cordell, Sean (2018). Can there be an Ethics for Institutional Agents? In: Hess, Kendy; Igneski, Violetta and Isaacs, Tracy eds. Collectivity: Ontology, Ethics, and Social Justice. London: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 61–79.



If an institutional organization, such as 'police force', 'school', or 'army unit' can be a moral agent in some sense(s), then does it differ from the individual moral agent such that we should judge, morally, each kind of agent in a different way or according to different standards? I argue that whichever way we conceive the institutional moral agent, it mirrors an individual in some specific social role more than it mirrors the individual moral agent or person per se. ‘More than’ insofar as the agency of an institution is embedded in a certain kind of role and its normative standards, whereas the moral agency of the individual is not similarly embedded. This difference has implications for the normative status of institutions and the ethical stance we should adopt towards them.

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