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Positive Economics and the Normativistic Fallacy: Bridging the Two Sides of CSR

Authors/Editors: Donaldson, T.
Schreck, Philipp
van Aaken, Dominik
Published: 2013
Type: Articles in Refereed Journals (International)
ISBN/ISSN: 1052-150X
Published by: Business Ethics Quarterly
Additional information: 23. Jg., Nr. 2, S. 297-330
Additional information: Ranking VHB 2.1: B


In response to criticism of empirical or “positive” approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR), we defend the importance of these approaches for any CSR theory that seeks to have practical impact. Although we acknowledge limitations to positive approaches, we unpack the neglected but crucial relationships between positive knowledge on the one hand and normative knowledge on the other in the implementation of CSR principles. Using the structure of a practical syllogism, we construct a model that displays the key role of empirical knowledge in fulfilling a firm’s responsibility to society, paying special attention to the implications of the “ought implies can” dictum. We also defend the importance of one particular class of empirical claims; namely, claims from the field of economics. Even positive economic theory, which is often criticized for endorsing profits rather than values, can cooperate in intriguing ways with non-economic concepts in the implementation of CSR goals.