Virtuousness and environment

How can organizational and natural environments facilitate the development of virtues?

Among the classics, Plato (427-347 BC) states that ethical life is gradually raised by the appropriateness of this life to higher ideas (eide), analogous to the form of the Good. From Plato, Aristotle (384-322 BC) translates that the end of man is the temporal happiness of life in conformity with reason, and that virtue is the way of this happiness. In the ethical philosophy of virtues, the focus is on the agent, because is him that understand what is morally appropriate or relevant in a given situation. Indeed, the environmental context in which virtue develops plays a fundamental role.

In this sense, more recent management studies have discussed virtuousness – which corresponds to the moral virtues of the organizational environment. While moral virtue concerns to the individual, virtuousness involves the concept at the collective level, they refer to organizational contexts in which virtues are practiced, supported, nourished, disseminated, and maintained. The more an organization stimulates or facilitates the virtue of its members, the more virtuous it is. Virtuousness shares elements in common with corporate social responsibility, organizational citizenship, business ethics, and justice.

Mauel Kaptein, Professor of Business Ethics at the Management School of the Dutch University of Rotterdam, conducted a qualitative analysis of 150 cases that included a variety of types of unethical behavior from members of varied organizations, influenced at least in part by organizational culture. As a result of analysis and categorization, seven factors related to organizational virtues that directly contribute to the ethical conduct of its members were found, such as: Viability, which refers to the working conditions given by the organization that facilitate or hinder moral excellence in the fulfillment of ethical standards; and Sanctionability that concerns direct punishments issued by the organization in response to the unethical behavior of its members.

In the text “In the face of nature – admiration and humility” I have analyzed the natural environment as a source of opportunities for physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual development. Whether through sports, readings, or by observing its complexity, the unique beauty contained in living beings in interaction in the search for the flowering of their potentialities, being in the natural environment tends to exercise virtues. Like the organizational environment, the natural environment seems to contain its own virtuousness. They are conditions given by the context that stimulate or facilitate the development of virtue in people.

Imagine the exercise of courage in the experience of sailing in the open sea, until lose sight of shore. The virtue of courage requires balance – a middle ground that moves away from cowardice, on the other from temerity, is the right measure between extremes. He who fears too much will not live the rich experience of moving away from shore, of watching the land from an unusual angle, of enriching his repertoire of visions and experiences. On the other hand, the person that is too much self-confidant can expose himself to risk on an inappropriate day or even move too far from the coast, only keeping his life by luck or nature’s mercy. The virtue of courage must act with double effect in combating fear and pride, finding balance.

In this example the virtuousness of the natural environment provided both viability – providing the conditions for navigational exercise, and sanctionability – which direct punishment of the environment could occur in response to inappropriate navigation behavior in open water. It is noticed that the practice of activities in natural environment provides factors that facilitate the development of virtues, the virtuousness of the natural environment. This and other themes relating virtues and the environment have been studied in my doctoral thesis at Admethics.


AMES, Maria Clara Figueiredo Dalla Costa; SERAFIM-SERAFIM, Maurício Custódio; MARTINS-MARTINS, Felipe Flôres. Análise das Escalas e Medidas de Virtudes Morais Associadas à Área de Administração e Ética Empresarial: uma Revisão Sistemática.

KAPTEIN, M. Developing and testing a measure for the ethical culture of organizations: The corporate ethical virtues model. Journal of Organizational Behavior, v. 29, n. 7, p. 923–947, out. 2008.

REALE, G. Introdução a Aristóteles. Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto, 2012. ZINGANO, Marco. As virtudes morais. São Paulo: WMF Martins Fontes, 2013.

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