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    • A Conflict Case Approach to Johannes BrinkmannBusiness Ethics Knut J. ImsABSTRACT. Departing from frequent use of moral flict in business contexts, with a focus on moralconflict cases in business ethics teaching and research, the aspects (cf. as drafts of such a perspective Frenchpaper suggests an elaboration of a moral conflict approach and Allbright, 1998, pp. 177–178, with furtherwithin business ethics, both conceptually and philo- references, or Brinkmann, 2002b, pp. 161–162).sophically. The conceptual elaboration borrows from This paper suggests taking a better look at such asocial science conflict research terminology, while the potential conflict management function of businessphilosophical elaboration presents casuistry as a kind ofpractical, inductive argumentation with a focus on para- ethics.digmatic examples.KEY WORDS: case approach, casuistry, conflict man- The use of moral conflict cases in businessagement, ethics teaching, moral conflict ethics teaching and research Moral conflict cases are the most popular way of teaching business ethics, consisting of more or less complex and authentic conflicts without an easy self- evident solution. Business ethics casebooks areIntroduction readers of business life, of conflict histories and issues (see e.g. Beauchamp, 1997; Donaldson and Gini,Business ethics as an academic field has two main 1995; Harvey et al., 1994; Hoffman et al., 2001;functions. On the one hand it challenges self-satis- Jennings, 2002). While full-format cases are meant asfied business people by inviting moral criticism and representatives of real-life conflict complexity,self-criticism of business practices. On the other teaching sometimes (and research normally) uses lesshand, business ethics is potentially helpful when it representative and more focused short versions ofcomes to analyzing, handling and preventing con- conflict cases, often called ‘‘scenarios’’ or ‘‘vignettes’’ (see e.g. Bain, 1994; Brinkmann, 2002a; Chonko, 1995; Peck et al., 1994; Weber, 1992). Such con-Johannes Brinkmann is professor at BI, the Norwegian School of flicts or dilemmas, short ones or long ones, real ones Management in Oslo Several of his articles have appeared in or constructed ones are normally designed as a the Journal of Business Ethics, Teaching Business Ethics, hopeless choice between contradictory responsibili- Business Ethics: A European Review. He has also published ties where at least one stakeholder will be hurt. The two business ethics books (in Norwegian, 1993 and 2001). follow-up question is usually in the format of ‘‘whatKnut Johannessen Ims is associate professor at NHH, the would you do if you were person X?’’ or ‘‘which Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administra- conflict party would you side with, and how would tion, Bergen, Norway doing research and teaching within business ethics and relational ethics. His thesis and his articles you justify your choice?’’ or ‘‘identify and clarify are mainly published in Norwegian. Some of his articles have main issues, parties and stakeholders, options and appeared in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, wisest solutions’’. Scandinavian Journal of Management, Business Ethics: A Cases and case teaching market ethics as useful European Review. He has also published a book on Infor- tools for analyzing and handling understandable and mation Ethics (in Norwegian, 1992). interesting moral conflict stories, trigger standpoint Journal of Business Ethics 53: 123–136, 2004. Ó 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
    • 124 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Imstaking and discussion. There is a danger, however, vant and useful concepts, either as a language inthat cases can be ‘‘too’’ entertaining and too super- which one can describe and understand conflict casesficial as a genre. Students and even teachers or as stories (cf. van Luijk, 1994, pp. 4–5) or for askingresearchers can easily forget that moral conflict cases individuals questions and understanding their an-are examples, i.e., are not about themselves or swers, about such conflict situations. Since there is ainteresting in themselves only.1 The challenge is to risk of over-representing big cases with mediareach a compromise between respect for uniqueness attention one can often defend a further detour andand desirable generalizability. On one hand one delay by asking individuals questions about theirneeds to be loyal to the single case (in the classroom conflict perceptions before describing cases as aor in the real business world), i.e., to come up with a whole.best possible (or at least good enough) solution. On When mapping individual conflict experience inthe other hand, the question is what one can learn professional or business contexts one would probablyfrom one case for all the other cases, more or less ask individuals, in an open question, for any conflictsimilar ones, and not least how a case solution definitions and/or conflict examples. Perhaps, onefunctions as a test case for moral philosophy and for would ask, in addition, questions about individualmoral conflict management. conflict handling experiences and ideas. Most More complex checklists for moral conflict case respondents would probably understand such aanalyses such as the 7-point list suggested by van question in one of the following formats:Luijk (1994, pp. 8–9) or the 12-point list suggestedby Nash (1989, p. 246) have a common denomi- • Are you experiencing any conflict in yournator. They all require a combined analysis of facts work situation, as an observer or as a party, andand of norms, or a situation and normative analysis. if yes related to which issues, how frequentlyInstead of a focus on practical suggestions and rules and how seriously?of thumb for case teaching and conflict-case ques- • Can you recall any (recent, serious, or just anytion formats we want to address, more principally, …) conflict in your work situation, as an ob-the possible strengths and weaknesses of a moral server or as a party, and if yes can you describeconflict case focus. Our draft of a further elaboration it briefly in your own words?of a moral conflict focus borrows from social science • If you experience or believe you experience aand from philosophy. By social science we think conflict in your work situation, how do youmainly of conflict research terminology. Our typically react?philosophical elaboration exploits primarily casuistryas a kind of practical, inductive argumentation with afocus on paradigmatic examples. Such questions about conflict concepts and conflict experiences are a good entry to professional morality studies. Coding the answers to such (more or less open) questions, however, requires a theoreticalMoral conflict case analysis as conflict analysis conflict concept and at least a minimum of indicators to look for and to compare by. Five conceptualIn order to prevent case teaching and case research distinctions could serve as a start:2from being too quick and too superficial, a delayed-judgment approach seems fruitful (Lustig and Ko- • conflicts as units versus conflict as a social sys-ester, 1996, pp. 333–336, suggest in their textbook tem property,an acronym, a ‘‘D–I–E’’-approach). Instead of • conflict attitudes, conflict behaviors and con-jumping from a quick case description to a quick flict contents,recommendation for how to handle the case Lustig • conflict of interest versus conflict of values,and Koester suggest asking for a sufficient descrip- • conflict versus conflict management perspec-tion (‘‘D’’) and understanding (interpretation, ‘‘I’’), tives andi.e., for a deliberately delayed judgment (evaluation, • conflict (case) outcomes versus conflict modi-‘‘E’’). Description and understanding require rele- fication.
    • Conflict Case Approach 125Conflicts as units versus conflict as system propertyIn questionnaire-based research, some respondents Amight refer to one specific conflict (or to severalconflicts), while others might read the question as aquestion of whether or not the workplace is more orless ‘‘full’’ of conflict. For grasping this subtlety, onecould distinguish, in methodology language, be-tween a unit and a property concept of conflict. In B Cthe first case one would think of the conflict x, takingplace in social context y, during time-span z. Onegiven conflict is studied as a specific, time-space- Figure 1. Galtung’s ‘‘conflict triangle’’. (A) conflict atti-unit, often with a focus on properties such as issue tudes, (B) conflict behavior, (C) conflict as incompati-types (such as value dissensus, or incompatible bility.interests related to scarce resources), number ofparties involved or power-relationships. In the sec-ond case, conflict denotes a system state or an actor conflict, as suggested by Johan Galtung in variousrelationship state, such as a level or degree of con- lectures and papers (see e.g. 1989, pp. 2–4; as aflict. There can be, e.g., much conflict in a post- visualization as a triangle cf. Figure 1). When codingmerger organization. This means that conflict (and responses the question would be if answers refer toconflicts in the plural form) can be thought of in the self-other images, to events or actions or moreindefinite form, grammatically speaking. There can specifically to conflict issues, i.e. more or less ab-be much or little, destructive or productive, basic or stract, underlying, incompatible goals, right-versus-superficial conflict. Ralf Dahrendorf ’s widely quo- right and right-versus-wrong choices (Kidder,ted dichotomy between conflict and consensus 1996), interests or values.models of society (1958, 1959) applies a propertyconcept of conflict, by implicitly postulating acontinuum or variable from consensus to conflict Conflict of interest versus conflict of valueswhen talking about societies or organizations, withconflict almost as the opposite of consensus. The A third distinction relates closely to business ethicsunit and property concepts of conflict are related. and to the core of this paper. It is a dichotomy byConflicts-as-units are symptoms or manifestations of primary conflict theme, between conflicts of interestconflict-as-system-property. In most organizations, and conflicts of values. The main idea is that thethere is some latent conflict, e.g. about profit/wage most important conflict issues are competing inter-ratios or about proper degrees of workplace- ests versus moral disagreement respectively, or withdemocracy. Such latent or built-in quite normal a lengthy quotation from Aubert’s article where thisconflict manifests itself from time to time, normally dichotomy is suggested (1963, pp. 27–30, our ital-again, in identifiable conflicts-as-units, i.e. conflict ics): ‘‘A conflict of interest between two actors stemsprocesses or episodes. from a situation of scarcity. (Both) … want ‘the same thing’, but there is not enough available for each to have what he wants. In this general sense the basisConflict attitudes, conflict behaviors and conflict contents for a conflict is present in all trading transactions. The seller would like to have more money than theA second distinction could be between what the buyer is willing to part with … This conflict po-conflict is about, if and/or how the conflict is per- tential is eliminated through the operation of theceived by the parties and if and/or how the parties market, usually so smoothly that no overt signs ofshow any overt signs of conflict-related behavior. In conflict appear. If a conflict comes into the open, theother words, one could distinguish between attitu- solution will often be a compromise … It is a type ofdinal, behavioral and content aspects (or concepts) of social interaction in which it seems that solutions are
    • 126 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Ims facts, event, identify decide, i.e. situation, e.g. formulate as a alternatives choose a moral solvable and apply alternative by conflict case problem checklists if criteria/ good available reasons Figure 2. Solving conflicts as problems.reached by discouraging the actors from getting the dysfunctional conflict is a second goal, and if thismorally involved in a major aspect of the interaction, fails, minimizing or decreasing it becomes the fall-the condition being that the interests are not dia- back position …’’ The opposite perspective wouldmetrically opposed … Competing or contrasting ask critically if conflicts and if the parties’ standpointsinterest does not in itself imply any disagreement have been addressed thoroughly and constructively,between Ego and Alter concerning values. It may in their own right. Sometimes there is a suspicioneven be claimed that a conflict of interest presup- that institutions primarily try to justify themselves asposes a consensus, at least on the value of the good, well functioning (if necessary by redefining conflictswhich is sought after by both parties… A conflict of to fit with the possibilities of the institution).4value is based upon a dissensus concerning the nor- The second question about how conflict is man-mative status of a social object. … (The) illicit nature aged is not independent of the first one. Rewardingof compromise on the level of value and of empirical or persuading parties respects the parties’ conflicttruth makes it hard to discuss matters quite candidly ownership more than coercing them (cf. Kriesberg,… It is especially when … questions of factual 2003, pp. 110–124, in particular his diagram on p.responsibility, of guilt and merit, become parts of 111 which is shown here as Figure 3).value-conflicts … that a solution through compro-mise becomes so difficult …’’ Conflict (case) outcomes versus conflict modificationDifferent conflict management perspectives A fifth aspect can be seen as a follow-up to the first distinction and to the fourth one. Conflicts-as-unitsA fourth distinction relates to differences in conflict are almost defined, as processes, by their history, e.g.management perspectives. A first question asks if with pre-history, emergence, development, termi-conflict is looked at from a conflict management nation, i.e. they have an outcome (or end) and con-perspective or if conflict-handling institutions arelooked at from a conflict perspective. In the first persuadecase, conflict or conflicts are treated as a problem.Conflicts as problems need to be handled and ask fora solution (or resolution, cf. Figure 2, cf. also morein social science terminology Galtung, 1965, p. 355),in order to avoid potential negative effects of unre-solved conflict.3 Or in Weiss’ words (1996, p. 170): ‘‘The goals ofconflict management are, first and foremost, toprevent negative or dysfunctional conflict from reward coerceoccurring while, at the same time, encouraginghealthy conflict that stimulates innovation and per- Figure 3. Kriesberg’s conflict management style typesformance. If prevention does not work, eliminating (2003, p. 111).
    • Conflict Case Approach 127 A gets all 1 5 governments representing them, when individually A gets all, A gets all and or collectively they deliberate about what to do … – B gets nothing B gets all between conflicting obligations …, purposes, ends, goals, or ‘values’ …, moral codes or systems or world views …, different kinds of moral claim (e.g. 4 Both A gets consequentialism, deontology, partiality, authors’ B get half each add.) …’’ (Lukes, 1991, pp. 5–9).5 In terms of the five conceptual distinctions presented above one 3 2 can, more simply, consider moral conflict and moral A gets A gets nothing A gets nothing nothing B gets nothing conflict management as special cases of conflict and conflict management, i.e. intra- or inter-party B gets B gets conflict situations related to moral standpoint dif- nothing all ferences (or incompatibilities, or incommensurabil- Figure 4. Galtung’s conflict outcome typology. ities, cf. Lukes, 1991, pp. 9–17). Instead of or in addition to a conventional definition of moralsequences (cf. e.g. Kriesberg, 2003, with a figure on conflict, it can often be as fruitful to treat moralp. 23). Conflict-as-property typically changes or not, conflict as a conflict ideal type or counter type asi.e. increases, stagnates or decreases, either by itself suggested by Aubert (1963, cf. once more theor by management in the above-mentioned sense. quotation above and our Table I which repeatsUnless one employs a purely attitudinal and/or Aubert’s dichotomy).behavioral conflict definition, the core criterion in With or without such a typology in mind, onethe conflict-as-unit case and of a possible conflict-as- should leave it an open empirical question if (andunit solution is incompatibility or a contradiction of how) moral conflict bases or moral significance ofparty interests and/or moral positions. The following conflicts affect conflict history – how conflict cases,fivefold typology (Figure 4, source: Galtung, 1965, conflict levels, conflict attitudes, behaviors andp. 351 and still Galtung, 2003, p. 11, 26 – authors’ contents or conflict management develop, if self-simplification) can serve as an illustration. administered moral conflict management is more For the conflict-as-property concept tradition one difficult (as claimed by Aubert), or not.can refer to another fivefold typology, of conflictmanagement styles (cf., widely quoted, Thomas, 1976,quoted here after Weiss, 1996, p. 171): Five assumptions about moral conflict in (business) organizationsMoral conflict defined Related to the distinctions presented above, we see‘‘Moral conflicts are conflicts between moral claims five fruitful assumptions when it comes tothat may face persons or groups or communities or understanding conflict in business organization TABLE I A comparison of moral versus non-moral conflict Non-moral conflict Moral conflictFocus Incompatible interests Incompatible moral positionsAction Ends-rational Value-rationalPerception Rational perception Tendency towards judgemental perceptionOutcome Negotiable Often non-negotiable, hence imposed sen- tence or segregation
    • 128 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Ims (or not). Sooner or later, conflict analysis will turn Assertive Competing Collaborating into an analysis of incompatibilities and of incom- (satisfying one’s own concerns) patibility removal (cf. still Bergstrom, 1970, esp. his ¨ figure on p. 213 and once more Galtung’s recent Compromising book, 2003). To Galtung, the proper handling of a conflict is ideally a question of conflict transcendence. In other words, any conflict outcome is sub-optimal as long as better, more fruitful conflict transcendence Unassertive Avoiding Accomodating is possible (following Aubert, 1963, one could assume that value conflict transcendence is more difficult Uncooperative Cooperative (satisfying the other party’s concerns) than a transcendence of measurable interests). A conflict case solution means often the same as aFigure 5. Thomas’ conflict management style typology. transcendence of a logical contradiction towards a contradiction-free final statement. As a contrast, conflict-as-property, e.g. in the conflict-and-con-contexts, with a weaker or stronger moral compo- sensus-antinomy represents a dialectical contradic-nent: tion.6 In an older paper Pruzan and Thyssen (1990) offer an interesting elaboration of the conflict versus (1) Conflict as system property and single conflict consensus antinomy, which is of special interest here cases are normal rather than exceptional in since it builds a bridge to another important antin- organizations. Moral conflict can often be a omy, of morality versus ethics: sign of cultural and moral diversity. (2) Conflict or conflict cases, moral ones or not, ‘‘In a pluralistic society there is no agreement as to what should be dealt with constructively, as long as is morally right and wrong. Each subculture maintains such conflict management is not biased and its own values and therefore its own discriminatory respects the given conflict(s) on their own norms as part of its identity. This creates a variety of premises. morals. No formal arguments can substantiate one (3) Moral conflict can represent a (productive) subculture’s moral principles and deny the validity of test of principles and identity, i.e. it can another’s … The question is whether it is possible to provoke and engages often more than non- develop a set of values which are shared among the subcultures and which can contribute to replacing such moral conflict (for a similar reason, moral confrontation within a political culture, which respects blaming and moralizing can create conflict conflicts and differences and still is able to create con- escalation and often function destructively). sensus … When subcultures cannot justify their own (4) Ethics represents a chance to handle intra- rules for right and wrong via intuition or an appeal to organizational conflict of different kinds (i.e. universally valid rules, what is required if groups with moral or non-moral conflict) in a civilized different moral rules are to coexist can be considered as and constructive manner. a second order morality. We will call this second order (5) The question of conflict outcomes repeats the morality ‘ethics’ … Ethics is distinguished from juris- ambiguity between conflict cases (units) and prudence by its search for the legitimate rather than just conflict as system property. Conflict cases can the legal. An action or decision is legitimate if it can be end, i.e. have outcomes, while conflict as rationally accepted by all stakeholders. Ethics is also property cannot ‘‘end’’, but continues, in- distinguished from morality. Moral rules are rules for dissolving substantive conflicts within a subculture. In a creases or decreases, modified or not. pluralistic society ethics leads to value-oriented com- munication aimed at dissolving conflicts in the socialThe last assumption suggests that conflict manage- relationships between subcultures. A gap arises betweenment should be sustainable. The typologies with the moral substance, created by the tradition of a sub-different conflict management styles and outcome culture, and the ethical form, created by the need fortypes (cf. Figures 3–5 above) are less a question of non-violent coexistence of many traditions and sub-truth than of usefulness for further conflict analyses cultures …’’ (1990, pp. 136–137).
    • Conflict Case Approach 129 TABLE II and should follow from combining casuistry with a A comparison of morality and ethics discourse ethics approach, claiming that the parties own their conflict case.Morality EthicsSubcultural InterculturalInternal External A few referencesParticularist UniversalistPotentially furthering Potentially furthering A quick literature search indicates that there are onlyconflict conflict solution (consensus) a few business ethics sources, which provide a moreMoral substance Ethics as legitimate form (in comprehensive presentation of casuistry as a useful contrast to legal forms) and important method for our field. The first source is Ciulla’s (1994) short but thorough history of phi- One could try to simplify the two authors’ way losophy presentation and literature review of casuisticof reasoning by still another simple typology (see thinking, printed in a business ethics anthology.Table II). Calkins (2001) addresses the compatibility of casu- For the remainder of the paper the focus will be istry and the business case method, by describing theon conflicts as units, i.e. conflicts as cases, shortened key features of casuistry and the case method, notor not, possibly with additional information available least as inductive and practical methods of reasoningfrom the individual parties in the case. As already with a focus on particular settings and real-life situ-indicated above, the suggestion is that moral conflict ations. A similar, more general professional ethicscases should, as a start, be described and understood focus is found in Toulmin’s paper (1973) who claimsas conflicts, that professional or applied ethics, in this case medical ethics, ‘‘saved the life of ethics’’, by forcing it back to real-life moral conflict diagnosis and prescription. • with a focus on attitudinal, behavioral and Boeyink (1992) who is concerned with journalism incompatibility aspects whenever appropriate, ethics discusses casuistry as a method and a ‘‘middle • as conflicts or interest, of values or as a com- ground’’ between practice and principle. As a third bination of both, applied ethics example one could refer to another • which balance between loyalty to the conflict piece of work of Calkins, showing how casuistry and conflict management considerations, could handle the triangle conflict between GM-food • and not least which make learning from the proponents, GM-food opponents and the farmers in handling of the single conflict relevant to future between (2002). Calkins is optimistic when it comes conflict handling. to potential synergies between casuistry and virtue ethics.8 Our contention is that there is a need for ‘‘much more’’ casuistic business ethics, i.e., we claim that casuistry represents an important and underuti-Casuistry – case-focused moral philosophy lized9 potential for both academic and practitioner business ethicists. As a first step towards a substanti-If one’s ambition is to outline how moral philosophy ation of such a claim we will now draft a critical andcan make sure that a given moral conflict case is not constructive overview of the potential benefits andonly described and understood on its own premises, weaknesses of the casuistic method.but also evaluated on its own premises, there is noway around casuistry as a philosophical tradition.The challenge is first to take a critical look at the Casuistry – a negative or a neutral term?potential strengths and weaknesses of such an ap-proach. In a next step, one could ask how ethical One standard definition of casuistry can be found incasuistry could function without the power standing the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘‘Casuistry is thatbehind legal casuistry (following from law positivity, part of ethics which resolves cases of conscience,‘‘legality’’).7 In our opinion, such legitimacy could applying the general rules of religion and morality to
    • 130 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Imsparticular instances in which circumstances alter cases or reflection: ‘‘‘Business ethics’ … is to ethics what softin which there appears to be a conflict of duties’’ porn is to the Platonic Eros; soft porn too talks of(our italics).10 This definition is standard in its ref- something it calls ‘love’. And insofar as ‘businesserence to conflict situations but narrow in its ethics’ comes even close to ethics, it comes close tounnecessary reference to specified systems of norms casuistry and will, predictably, end up as a fig leaf forsuch as legal rule systems or Christian moral theo- the shameless and as special pleading for the pow-logy. Another and even more important definition erful and the wealthy.’’ (1981, p. 34). Drucker’scriterion of the casuistic method should be its main concern is business ethics instrumentalization,inductive, analogical, and dialectical form of argu- not least by cynical profit seekers.14 Drucker’smentation, independently of such specified systems. expectation seems to be that ethical theory withoutWe should therefore rather like to follow the defi- virtuous habits and attitudes makes one clever rathernition of casuistry suggested by Ruyter (1995, p. 9)11 than moral.15 In their interesting paper ‘‘A reply toas a ‘‘… case-oriented and example-based way of Peter Drucker’’ Hoffman and Moore (1982) departargumentation (…) Morally relevant similarity be- from the premise that casuistry to them ‘‘remains antween good examples and the situation of moral important aspect of ethical reasoning’’. In a next stepdoubt can be used as an argument for similar treat- Drucker is criticized for his pejorative interpretationment of the new case, while morally relevant dif- and use of the term casuistry and then for blamingferences can be used as an argument against such Business ethics for being casuistry.16 To them,similar treatment. Arguments for and against need to casuistry has to do with ‘‘the application of generalbe balanced which in turn requires good judgment. principles in specific circumstances’’, thus repre-Usually such an approach can lead to a preliminary senting ‘‘the mechanical aspect of ethics’’ (p. 297).conclusion with more or less hypothetical and Klein (2000), with a focus on Drucker’s moreacceptable solutions. Such a way of argumentation comprehensive management works, concludes thatfurthers dialogue and aims at reaching a consensus Drucker is a ‘‘business moralist’’, that he really ‘‘takes…’’ (authors’ free translation from Ruyter, 1995, business ethics seriously’’ and that he holds anp. 9). ‘‘essentially Platonic’’ view of business manager The label matters, too. Instead of the dyslogism12 responsibility.of ‘‘casuistry’’ we should prefer the German/Nor-wegian/Scandinavian term Kasuistik. In this way onecould avoid the pejorative connotation related to the Strengths of casuistryabuse of casuistry in its mature period from 1650 to1750, with moral probabilism and moral minimalism With reference to Jonsen and Toulmin’s use ofas the main blame. During this period the French casuistry in a National Commission (for the Pro-philosopher Blaise Pascal started his powerful attack tection of Human Subjects of Biomedical andof the Paris Jesuits in his Provincial Letters (1656). Not Behavioral Research, in 1974) Keenan (1998) con-least due to Pascal, the word casuistry carries a siders modern casuistry as ‘‘a moral taxonomy fornegative connotation. But casuistry criticism is older. distinguishing acceptable from unacceptable ways ofThe founding father of Protestantism, Martin Luther involving humans as subjects in medical or behav-(1483–1546) included the most famous casuistry ioral research’’, i.e. as different from 16th centurytextbook of his time (Angelus Claretus’ Summa casuists’ use of it, due to contemporary complexityAngelica) in his bonfire of books in 1520, since he being based on an incommensurable diversity ofjudged it to be destructive to Christian faith.13 ethical systems. In a next step Keenan (1998) dem- onstrates the sustainability of casuistry as a conse- quence of its turn to the subject and emphasis of‘‘Business ethics’’ as casuistry context dependency. Deontology and consequen- tialism are in effect inhibiting the beliefs of theThe abuse of casuistry is not unknown to contem- commission members, i.e. functioning as ideologies.porary business writers. The following quotation of Casuistry ‘‘on the other hand (is) a formal conveyor,Peter Drucker is worth while sharing and further a translucent mediator bringing beliefs more directly
    • Conflict Case Approach 131into the concrete world … Casuistry is free of such totelian sense, so to speak as a quality insurance (cf.ideological biases … because … casuistry is ‘pre- also MacIntyre, 1984, pp. 152–155, Jonsen andtheoretical’…’’ (Keenan, 1998, p. 165). The one bias Toulmin’s view, 1988 and once more Calkins,of casuistry is its suspiciousness towards ‘‘ideology’’ 2002).18and ‘‘generalities’’. Therefore casuistry representsand expresses the beliefs that form us, the practitio-ners’ way of thinking17, their presuppositions and Casuistry as a procedure for moral conflict managementpresumptions. Furthermore, casuistry is ‘‘… unin-telligible as an activity separated from its communal Casuistry has more or less implicit theoreticalcontext …’’ (Keenan, 1998, p. 166). assumptions. Most important, perhaps, is the assumption of inductive reasoning. Moral decision making should be organized bottom up rather thanWeaknesses of casuistry top down, or with the words of Buchholz and Rosenthal (2001, p. 28) claiming that ‘‘a sense ofEven more important, perhaps, than an awareness moral rightness comes not from indoctrination ofand exploitation of the potential strengths of casu- abstract principles but from attunement to the wayistry is an awareness and avoidance of its weaknesses. in which moral beliefs and practices must be rootedThis concerns less the traditionally bad reputation of naturally in the very conditions of human exis-casuistry addressed already than a number of more tence.’’ Beyond their main thesis that classicalspecific traps or limitations. After quoting more American Pragmatism could link principle and casewell-known objections such as ‘‘lack of critical dis- approaches they show that moral reasoning demandstance, … methodological stringency and determi- a return to concrete situations as the very foundationnacy’’ and in addition mentioning a possible for context-sensitive moral decision making. Weconservative bias, Ruyter (2003) lists altogether five have now returned where the paper started: casuistrylimitations ‘‘worthwhile considering’’ (presentation is, essentially, a practical procedure for moral conflictshortened, in part extended and reformulated by management.authors): As such ‘‘moral conflict management’’ it starts with a problematic case, a case that contains some 1. the authentic case is not as self-evident as often conflict. Keenan (1998) suggests using the threat of presented (but normally ‘‘constructed’’, i.e., AIDS as an example, since it (like the threat of nu- exposed to selective perception, authors’ add); clear war) forces us to rethink our moral principles 2. case solutions are typically ‘‘probable’’, i.e., and presuppositions (p. 167). Then follows a search for often neither acceptable to most stakeholders paradigm cases i.e. resolved accounts of real-life situ- nor resolutions in a stricter sense; ations or ‘‘touchstone cases that have intrinsic and 3. casuistry can be narrow-minded, i.e., can extrinsic certitude’’ (Calkins, 2001). The interesting overlook larger perspectives and should be question is, of course, what makes a case paradig- supplemented by an interdisciplinary perspec- matic. According to Aristotle, there are five paradigm tive; types (distinguished by acknowledgement types, 4. there is a tendency and temptation to overstate endoxa), where a case either is recognized by all, by a similarities and analogies across cases; majority, by the wise, by most wise, by the most 5. there is no easy way of identifying paradigm well-known and respectable among the wise, cases – conscious and cautious use of analogies respectively.19 Another alternative of paradigm ‘‘in order to assure relevance and significance legitimacy could be tradition, i.e. case testing over a in the comparison of context embedded long time.20 As Keenan (1998) demonstrates with cases’’(p. 11). AIDS as a case, it is indeed a challenge to find a paradigmatic case with fruitful and interesting paral-The remedy against actual or potential weaknesses of lels (relevant similarities) to the present case. On thecasuistry (formulated by Ruyter or others) is perhaps other hand, modern information technology makes itsimply a ‘‘virtuous user’’ requirement in the Aris- much easier to find, classify, store and retrieve
    • 132 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Ims facts: particular moral conflict paradigmatic case with con- case(s) ceptualizations of properties C1, C2, C3 etc. (cf. above) weighing provisional non- conclusion uniqueness about the against present case uniqueness (“presumably of the case so”) norms, e.g. “treat equal cases equally”, “respect the absent particular case” exceptional and other circumstances general norms (“rebuttals”) Figure 6. Revised and extended from Jonsen and Toulmin, 1988, p. 35.paradigmatic cases. The next step is inductive • recognizing such cases as conflict cases (or evenanalogical reasoning. Deliberation (pro aut contra dicere) better as a range of different conflict types,draws analogies between the paradigm case and the discovered and focused on by different con-present situation, attempting to identify relevant ceptualizations) andsimilarities and differences. Such dialectical argu- • recognizing popular case analysis as a kind ofmentation consists in a dialogue-based attempt to casuistry light raising the same critical mainpromote critical ethical reflection, departing from question as casuistry, namely to weighcommon acknowledged meanings, through ques- uniqueness and exceptions against general andtions and answers, arguments and counter-arguments generalization considerations, balancing be-(cf. Ruyter, 1995, p. 13 note 20). According to tween justice to the specific case in its contextRuyter (1995) this very step makes the casuistic and justice more generally across cases.method more action-oriented, because one asks forarguments, which can lead to recommendations or In addition, one should not forget the typicalsolutions. Brown’s argumentative model has also a lot ambiguity of models or approaches.22 On the onein common with casuistry (see 1990, ch. 3).21 Brown hand a model or an approach (e.g. a conflict con-asserts that such a way of reasoning stimulates ethical cept) may be better than none; on the other handreflection, because it shows the necessity of value any focus includes a risk of overlooking non-focusedjudgments and assumptions in making policy deci- aspects and narrowing rather than opening up oursions. In other words, casuists are not satisfied with an minds. The best remedy against such narrowness orabstract discussion of theoretical necessity and eternal bias is a similar kind of approach combination as it isconclusions. Figure 6 summarizes the casuistic way well known from research methodology – triangu-of resolving moral conflicts as problems. lation. Figure 6 can be read as a repetition of the mainthoughts in the different sections of this paper. Weclaim that any shortcut from moral conflict case Open end: Casuistic moral conflictdescriptions to checklists is problematic. Conflict managementtheory and casuistry can hopefully delay and im-prove case description and understanding as an What is a vice in a research report financed by thealternative to jumping to a quick solution, by business community is a virtue at a conference
    • Conflict Case Approach 133where researchers meet. We are offering a number aspects of a case, in a similar way as what is meant byof open questions and suggestions for a discussion the term casuistry, used in a derogative way. Donaldsonabout desirable future work and possible research talks of the case method as ‘‘not foolproof’’, since businesscooperation, rather than a conclusion. cases are necessarily looked at ex post, as static simplifi- cations, often presented in a hurry with too little • Having presented both conflict diagnosis and discussion time (Donaldson and Gini, 1993, p. 21). 2 There are further heuristic schemes and distinctions one casuistry on their own premises prepares a could have referred to – e.g. checklists of starting desirable synthesis of these two related ways of questions, such as: who is in conflict with whom, about thinking. There are also other streams of re- which issues, why, by acting how, with which outcomes and search which should be taken into consider- consequences, regulated by third parties or relevant institu- ation when trying out such a synthesis, not least tions (or not – cf. also the checklist provided by Weiss, discourse ethics for ensuring legitimacy of the 1996, p. 176). In addition, one could have referred to the procedure.23 traditional social science distinction between micro and • The possible synergy effects between conflict macro, or even micro-meso-macro system levels. And theory and casuistry could also be tried out in there are inter- and intra-group-conflict, inter- and intra- critical-empirical analyses of cases, ranging from organizational conflict. Inter-party-relationships often standard length single business ethics cases to represent another important conflict dimension, such as short scenarios. power equality versus inequality, or party autonomy versus interdependence. If one distinguishes three rela- • Finally, the topic of this paper could contribute tionship types (symmetry, superiority, membership) one to a better theoretical grounding of case can combine this dimension with the micro-macro- teaching in business ethics.24 dimension to a 15-cell-typology (cf. Dahrendorf, 1972, p. 27, with several examples for each type).If there is any short and simple conclusion (as a 3 Criteria or good reasons (in terms of the last diagramrepetition of a reference above): in spite of any po- box) could be, e.g., legitimate procedure, rules andtential weaknesses, casuistry seems indispensable as a principles, desirable/undesirable consequences. 4method and a ‘‘middle ground’’ between practice The first author’s PhD-thesis (Konfliktpraxis und Rec-and principle. The alternative seems to be blind htspraxis, Munster and Oslo, 1975) suggests that this ¨practice and empty principles.25 distinction is the core of the Habermas–Luhmann- controversy in German social science in the early 1970s, cf. still Luhmann, Legitimation durch Verfahren, Neuwied,Acknowledgement 1969 and Habermas and Luhmann, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie …, Frankfurt, 1971. 5 This quotation could have been continued over half aWe should like to thank, in addition to the page or so, as an elaboration of the distinction that ‘‘…reviewers, Tore Nordenstam, Knut W. Ruyter, and conflict may signify diversity, incompatibility, or incom-Roberta Wiig Berg for valuable help with comments mensurability … (ibid., p. 9). These quotations are takenand native language proof-reading. Any remaining from a text which is a convincing bridge-builder betweenimperfections are, of course, the authors’ responsi- social science and moral philosophy (the latter looked atbility. from outside), eventually ending up with a liberal defense of taking moral conflict seriously and making sense of it, as opposed to its ‘enemies’, i.e. moral philosophers whoNotes try not to make sense of it (cf. esp. pp. 3–5 and p. 20). For a less theoretically and more practically sophisticated1 Cf. e.g. van Luijk (1994, pp. 6–7) who distinguishes conceptualization of moral conflict see e.g. the book bybetween two dangers of case-teaching. A ‘‘minor, Pearce and Littlejohn, 1997, which includes the followingdidactical’’ danger overemphasizes case-teaching (hoping suggestion: ‘‘Although abstract definitions of moralthat many cases per se generate understanding and of conflicts are useful for certain purposes, they should notlooking at cases as puzzles to be solved by almost guessing be pushed too far. Matters of definition involve aone solution only, instead of focusing on balancing necessary trade-off between abstract terms that are usefularguments and comparing cases). A ‘‘major, normative’’ for delineating categories and more specific terms thatdanger overemphasizes and excuses the exceptional help describe actual events …’’ (p. 50).
    • 134 Johannes Brinkmann and Knut Ims6 The difference between these two contradiction types considered casuistry to be more than devilish (plus quamis not always clear, since finding – or guessing – a logical diabolica). 14contradiction transcendence is one thing while marketing Jonsen and Toulmin (1988) remind us of the doubleit can be quite another. As indicated above, conflict and roots of casuistry, both in moral philosophy and inconsensus almost form a dialectic opposition, where rhetorics traditions, the latter with a major purpose ofconflict and consensus concepts define one another, test inventing arguments likely to convince an audience. 15and transcend one another and offer critical evaluation Cf. similarly Williams, 1982, p. 19: ‘‘Morality iscriteria for one another. It has also been mentioned that primarily a way of life, an ethos, and what one does inthe conflict versus consensus theme is one of the classical business ethics courses is to reflect on the ethos and itsantinomies in social science. See in addition to the two implications for business practice.’’ 16classical works of Dahrendorf (1958, 1959) textbook In the same paper Hoffman and Moore also offer anchapters and sections such as Ritzer (1996, ch. 7), Wallace insightful analysis of a case with conflicting moraland Wolf (1995, ch. 3), Collins (1994). obligations (Henry VIII’s dilemma to divorce Catherine7 There is another important difference between morality of Aragon versus ‘‘to govern his country wisely’’). 17and law, which needs to be mentioned. Law has typically Cf. Toulmin’s formulation, quoted by Keenan (1998,a strong preference for predictability, precedences and note 14): ‘‘… Catholic principles say more aboutprejudicats (cf. the stare decisis rule – what is decided Catholics than about the issue they are addressing …’’ 18should not be changed). Morality, on the other hand, is A virtuous person would simply not instrumentalizenot necessarily bound by precedences, but rather a ethics in order to obtain disputable purposes. In particular,question of what is fair in the given situation, all things phronesis (or prudence, practical wisdom) is the mostconsidered (cf. Sundby, 1978, p. 291). relevant virtue for casuistry. In a strict sense, phronesis is8 Calkins (2002) also suggests searching for more exem- not an ethical but an intellectual virtue (such as techne,plary ‘‘hero’’ stories – such as the one of the 1970 Noble nous, episteme and sophia), though intimately connected toPeace Prize winner Nils Borlaug. ethical virtues (cf. Aristotle, 1985, e.g. book 6, 1139 b11–9 According to Jonsen and Toulmin (1988) such b18). Cf. also Toulmin’s references to Aristotelian‘‘underutilization’’ of the casuistic method is partly due arguments in favor of casuistry (1973, pp. 93–95),to its (pre-modern) abuse by the Jesuits and to the MacIntyre’s illustration case for the importance of(modern) drive towards deductive and abstract science. Aritotelian phronesis (the Wampanoag Indians’ tribal land10 Cf. Ciulla’s (1994) definition of casuistry, as ‘‘… the art claim case, 1984, pp. 133–134), or as more generalof reasoning from cases. The Latin word ‘casus’ means the supplementary readings of Wheelwright, (1935). Differ-falling away or declension of a noun. By analogy, the term ent terms are used in different translations. While T. Irwin‘casuistry’ implies a kind of deflection or falling away from uses the term ‘‘intelligence’’ and Wheelwright usesa law or principle. Casuistry serves the dual purpose of ‘‘sagacity’’, we prefer the term phronesis, or practicalapplying principles to cases and using cases to help us wisdom as used in Aristoteles’ Nicomachean Ethics (trans-understand and sometimes alter principles …’’ (p. 172). lated by Ross), Oxford University Press 1925, or in DenCf. also the short casuistry definition suggested by Calkins ˚ Nikomakiske etikk (translated by Ø. Rabbas and A. Stigen(2002), as ‘‘… a method of moral deliberation that relies to Norwegian), Bokklubben Dagens bøker, Oslo, 1999.on settled cases to resolve present moral dilemmas. It has The emphasis on phronesis in Aristotelian ethics meansusers reach a decision about an ambiguous present that practical issues should be discussed and deliberated insituation by comparing that situation to previous incidents ‘‘rhetorical’’ terms. Rhetorics and ethics are both practicalin which judgments have already been rendered.’’ (p. 312) fields where formal proofs or intellectual precision are11 About casuistry as an attempt to practical handling of a replaced by real life-experience. 19particular, morally difficult situation cf. Jonsen and About moral probabilism (see Jonsen and Toulmin,Toulmin (1988, p. 13). 1988, pp. 164 –175).12 20 Cf. Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary (Collins, Such an aspect of ‘‘acknowledged meaning’’ builds, byet al., 1987: ‘‘ … reasoning that is extremely subtle and the way, a bridge between the casuistic tradition anddesigned to mislead people…’’ See Jonsen and Toulmin, common, empirical morality – i.e., a paradigmatic case1988 about the word ending -ry in the word ‘‘casuistry’’ solution must be acceptable in the context where itwhich communicates family resemblance to other dyslo- applies. 21gistic terms such as wizardry, ‘‘sophistry’’, ‘‘harlotry’’ and Brown elaborates on Stephen Toulmin’s five-concept‘‘popery’’. argumentative model (conclusion, data, warrant, backing,13 According to Ruyter (1995, p. 122), Luther suggested and qualification; cf. also Figure 2 in Jonsen and Toul-Summa diabolica as a more suitable title because he min, 1988, p. 35).
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