Rethinking Right: Moral Epistemology in Management Research
Most management researchers pause at the threshold of objective right and wrong. Their hesitation is understandable. Values imply a “subjective,” personal dimension, one that can invite religious and moral interference in research. The dominant epistemological camps of positivism and subjectivism in management stumble over the notion of moral objectivity. Empirical research can study values in human behavior, but hard-headed scientists should not assume that one value can be objectively better than another. In this article we invite management researchers to rethink this presumption. We show how accepting at least a limited form of moral objectivity, namely, an epistemic orientation that seeks objective moral reasons, can benefit management research by 1. guiding research practice; 2. using patterns of moral objectivity as clues for formulating empirical hypotheses for psychological explanations; and 3. adding prescriptive power to empirical theories.