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Hank Fu

Section 23
Hartman, Edwin (2016). Can We Teach Character? An Aristotelian Answer. Academy of
Management Learning & Education, 5(1), 6881.
This review serves to study and analyze Edwin Hartmans main messages and central
themes from his article Can We Teach Character? An Aristotelian Answer. In his article,
Hartman examines the importance of character and virtue. One of Hartmans main arguments is
that despite the fact that many people believe that business ethics courses are unnecessary, they
are, in fact, essential to improving the ethics of business students. Throughout the article, it is
evident that Hartmans philosophy is mainly derived from that of Aristotles, as Hartman uses the
opinions of the famous philosopher Aristotle to support his claims.
In his article, Hartman strongly asserts that by teaching students about character, business
ethics courses can expand or strengthen students ethics. Hartman mentions that people tend to
doubt whether business ethics courses are really helpful. People doubt their usefulness because
the public perception is that a persons character cannot be improved as it was developed and
formed in the persons early childhood. Meanwhile, Hartman also points out that there is also a
widespread misconception that character and ethics are unrelated and that ethics is about
principles. Hartman counters this view by claiming that just teaching students about principles is
not good enough. For example, he states that even though a generous person may act according
to appropriate principles, an ungenerous person can know the applicable principles but be stingy
anyway (Hartman 68). In addition, Hartman also comments on the imperfectness of principles
by stating that the moral principles on which [people] can reach a consensus are usually vague,
often in conflict, seldom unexceptionable, hence not reliably action-guiding (68). Thus, the
presentation of merely principles may generate more difficulties. Character, according to

Hank Fu
Section 23
Aristotle, is essential to personal identity (Hartman 69) because it includes virtues and vices
and entails certain values, dispositions, and emotions as well as actions (Hartman 69).
The article also mentions how individuals with a good character will not only benefit
themselves, but also others around them. Hartman claims that Aristotle would definitely support
this view because since human beings are social creatures, the good life, hence good character,
involves living satisfactorily in a congenial community (70). Because people tend to
communicate and socialize with others on a daily basis, their good virtues will influence the
other individuals in the community. On the other hand, peoples bad virtues will have a
negative impact on their surroundings. Other factors that may influence a persons character
include corporate culture and other systems. For instance, a person working for an organization
that values success will most likely adopt the local values and definition of success and want to
be motivated by what motivates their colleagues (Hartman 73). Meanwhile, if the majority of
the employees believe that unethical decisions and actions are justified, it is highly likely that the
remaining employees would give in to peer pressure and adopt the same values. Hartman states
that in this case, character is not merely about value but also the readiness to act on them and
the ability to see how to do so in a particular situation (73). Most of the time people decide not
to act on their values, such as courage, because they lack the courage to express their minds or
confront their peers.
In short, Hartman suggests that business ethics courses are should not be rejected simply
because they are not useless or pointless. While it is unlikely to change students with bad
character or those who simply want to behave unethically, business ethics courses may assist
those who already want to be ethical businesspeople get better at it (Hartman 69). This can be
achieved by emphasizing morality and teaching techniques for deciding what the right thing is

Hank Fu
Section 23
through the presentation of specific case studies (Hartman 69). Moreover, since an organization
may encourage both ethical and unethical behaviors, business ethics courses can prevent students
from choosing the wrong path. For example, Hartman suggests that the courses can teach
students how to create organizations that encourage rather than punish doing the right thing
(69). Lastly, Hartman concludes that the main goal of business ethics courses will aid students
choose the right courses of action in life that promote their own values.
Overall, the article achieved its goal in an effective manner through the demonstrations of
Aristotles philosophies and detailed examples. The central lesson of the article is that peoples
characters are extremely important because they affect their decision making and their personal
identities in life. The examples that Hartman presented and described in the article helped
clarifying the readers understanding of the issue. I can somehow relate to the example in which
corporate culture can influence peoples characters. Even though in my case it was not about
working for an organization or company, it certainly was similar. I was blessed to be a part of a
basketball team that valued team success and team relationship over personal achievements. The
team was all about teamwork, in which we emphasized unselfishness on offense and cooperation
on defense. Due to the fact that everyone on the team was willing to sacrifice individual glory
for the sake of a common goal, I was quickly able to adopt the teams values and thus commit to
the system. This personal experience of mine shows how Hartman and Aristotle were absolutely
correct when they claimed that communities, environments, and surroundings could shape a
persons character and value. In his article, Hartman has proved that ethical courses are
appropriate because students character can be improved. Research on students improvement in
character after taking the ethics courses is highly recommended. This study is important because
it will allow everyone to discover the effectiveness and usefulness of the business ethics courses.