chapter  7
19 Pages

Corporate Apologies

WithAndrew I. Cohen

This chapter considers the case of rights and duties of apology regarding groups. Apologies often engage collective agents of some sort, such as privately held or publicly traded corporations, teams, churches, institutions of higher learning, and especially states. Anticollectivism about social wholes is compatible with the possibility of corporate apologies. The chapter considers a symmetry objection: for an act to be an apology, all the functions an apology might exhibit must be possible among all parties to whom we attribute an apology. In response, the chapter defends a qualified version of asymmetry: an act can be an apology without showing all the same features in all instances.

Apologies serve important moral functions. They can undo the effects of our mistakes, restore and nurture relationships, affirm commitments to shared moral values, and cultivate virtue and well-being. For those wronged by transgressions, apologies can also promote recovery and end a destructive pattern of resentment and feelings of victimization. Individuals can and sometimes should apologize to others. They can bear rights and duties of apology. Is the same true of corporations?