Peter Koslowski

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Peter Koslowski (born October 2, 1952 in Göttingen ; † May 11, 2012 in Amsterdam ) was a German philosopher , economist and business ethicist .


Koslowski was the son of the physician Leo Koslowski and his wife Gisela, née Nussbaum.

He studied at the Universities of Tübingen, Munich and Virginia Tech ( USA ). It was in 1979 at the University of Munich with Hermann Krings and Robert Spaemann Dr. phil. doctorate, graduated from there a year later and was a scientist from 1979 to 1985. Assistant at the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Munich.

From 1985 to 1987 he was Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy and Head of the Institute for the Study Fundamentale at the University of Witten / Herdecke , and from 1987 to 2004 he was an adjunct professor of Philosophy and Political Economy. From 2004 he was Professor of Philosophy, in particular Philosophy of Management and Organizations and the History of Philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Free University of Amsterdam), Netherlands .

Since his student days Koslowski was a member of the K.St.V. Rheno-Bavaria Munich in the Cartel Association of Catholic German Student Associations . In 1987 he was appointed founding director of the Research Institute for Philosophy in Hanover , which he headed until 2000. From 1997 to 2003 he headed the project Discourse of World Religions at the Expo 2000 Hanover. From 2002 to 2003 he was visiting scholar-in-residence and advisor to the Liberty Fund in Indianapolis, USA, from 2003 to 2004 a fellow at the International Center for Economic Research, Turin, Italy.

Koslowski was awarded two honorary doctorates (Moscow and St. Petersburg, both 1998) and has been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon (September 7, 2001). He was chairman of the forum for business ethics and business culture of the German Society for Philosophy .

Business ethics

With his publication “Ethics of Capitalism”, first published in 1982, Peter Koslowski is one of the first to include the subject of business ethics as a separate discipline in Germany . He explains the reappearance of ethics from the crisis experience at the beginning of the 1970s as a reaction of postmodernism to the public awareness of the finiteness of the world and the limitation of resources. In analogy to political economy, he likes to speak of "'ethical economy', which is not only an application of ethics to normative decision-making issues, but also the integration of ethical theoretical components into the positive analysis of the production and demand context and the price system." he has three functions:

  1. Legitimation of the economic order
  2. Ethics as a corrective to economic failure
  3. Business ethics as applied normative ethics of business

Philosophically, Koslowski ties in with the hermeneutics of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey as well as the economic theory of Gustav von Schmoller's historical school derived from them . Economy is an aspect of the entire social life as well as culture, politics or law. Business ethics is justified by the side effects of economic trade on other areas of life. The moral good is determined on a level above these subsystems:

"It is one of the basic insights of natural law that the good cannot be expressed in a principle or value, but is to be determined as the realization of the perfect nature of the thing, taking into account the totality of reality."

The economy can only provide information about the correct allocation of resources. Which purposes are pursued, on the other hand, is a matter of ethics. In terms of content, Koslowski sees business ethics as a deontological ethics , which is based on the one hand on Kant and on the other hand on the material ethics of Max Scheler .

According to Koslowski, there are three types of exchange in economic coexistence in all historical and contemporary societies: the socially determined exchange in the family, the exchange on markets and sovereign compulsory exchange. It is only a question of the characteristics, which form of exchange is used and to what extent. The story leads to an ever stronger individualization, which was particularly strongly promoted in the Enlightenment. In modern societies, this leads to the dominance of the market over other forms of exchange. There are three defining structural features in capitalism: private property, the pursuit of profit and the coordination of actions through markets.

The economic models that see the market as an institution that leads to an optimum are based on idealized assumptions that are never given in practice. According to this, there is a sufficiently large number of suppliers and buyers, adjustments are made without cost and loss of time, and market conditions are enforced without transaction costs. In practice, mechanisms are required that compensate for deviations from the ideal conditions. In commercial practice, reliability and trust have developed as special ethical values. However, there is the problem of fare dodgers in the case of purely ethical regulations . The larger the market and the lower the social control, the greater the risk that individuals will unjustifiably enrich themselves at the expense of the whole. Koslowski sees this as a dilemma situation ( prisoner's dilemma ) which cannot be overcome due to the incomplete information and the uncertainty that this creates. Therefore, alongside the market failure, an ethics failure is likely. The only way out is the conviction that there are certain external values, for example in religion, in natural law or in regulative ideas (Kant), which induce the individual to behave ethically.

As applied normative ethics, business ethics is a means of improving the coordination of business and society.

"Applied business ethics analyzes, criticizes and formulates those virtues or preferences for goods and values ​​and those duties that should apply to people who work in business and in business enterprises."

The task of business ethics is to show the standards for appropriateness and fairness of exchange. Appropriate means to follow economic rationality. Distortions that lead to unfair results such as unfair competition, bribes or corruption are ethically prohibited from this perspective, as are all other practices and structures that impair the efficiency of the allocation of resources. Anyone who refrains from such actions that disrupt the market acts ethically well. Exchangeability means that prices are set appropriately, that is, fair standards for determining fair prices , which lead to the mutual benefit of an economic act. The exploitation of market power or deception about product quality, through which inadequate prices are realized, are to be classified as ethically reprehensible in this sense.

As a prescriptive discipline, business ethics has a transitional function to law, in which the normative ideas are codified in order to ensure their enforceability also through coercion.


In December 2009 Koslowski advertised the New Social Market Economy initiative . He was engaged for the PR campaign "Social market economy makes it better ... because it is capitalism with a human face."


  • Principles of Ethical Economy. Basis of business ethics , Mohr Siebeck, 1988, 2nd edition 1994, English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish translation.
  • Ethics of Capitalism , 1982, 7th edition 2010, English, Chinese, Japan., Spanish, Korean. Translation.
  • Social coordination. A theory of the market economy , 1991.
  • The Order of the Economy , 1994.
  • Politics and Economics in Aristotle , 1976.
  • Society and state. An inevitable dualism , Klett-Cotta, 1982, Russian translation.
  • Evolution and society. An examination of sociobiology , 1984, 2nd edition 1989, English, Russian, French. Translation.
  • State and society in Kant , 1985.
  • Postmodern culture , CH Beck, 1987, 2nd ed. 1988, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japan., Ukraine. Translation.
  • Economy as culture , Passagen Verlag, 1989.
  • The trials of modern times. About postmodernity. Philosophy, Gnosis , Passagen Verlag, 1989.
  • Obituary for Marxism-Leninism , 1991, Russian translation.
  • The myth of modernity. Ernst Jünger's poetic philosophy , 1991, Russian translation.
  • Gnosis and Theodicy. A study of the suffering god of Gnosticism , 1993.
  • Ethics of the banks and the stock exchange , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1997 (also English and Spanish)
  • Philosophies of Revelation. Ancient Gnosticism, Franz von Baader, Schelling , F. Schöningh Verlag, 2001, 2nd edition 2003.
  • Banking ethics. Conclusions from the financial crisis , Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2009. English translation The Ethics of Banking. Conclusions from the Financial Crisis , Springer Science + Business Media, 2011.

Editor of the book series Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy , since 1991, and Discourse of World Religions , 2000–2002, engl. A Discourse of the World Religions , 2000-2003. Editor u. a .:

  • Friedrich Gentz: The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution (1800) , edited and with an Introduction by Peter Koslowski, translated by John Quincy Adams (6th President of the United States of America) 1800 from the German original, Liberty Fund 2009, Chinese translation in preparation. Free edition available online:
  • Life extension - death extension. Clinical medicine facing the challenge of the end of life , Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2012.
  • Final Fear and Redemption 2: Justification, Retribution, Forgiveness, Redemption , Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011.
  • The Theory of Ethical Economy in the Historical School , 1995.
  • The consequences of Hegelianism. Philosophy, Religion and Politics in Farewell to Modernity , 1998.
  • The Social Market Economy. Theory and Ethics of the Economic Order , 1998.
  • Shareholder Value and the Criteria for Corporate Success , 1999.
  • Business Ethics - Where's the Philosophy? , 2001.
  • Philosophical religion. Gnosis between philosophy and theology , 2006.

Associate Editor u. a .:

  • Economization and commercialization of society. Economic philosophical distinctions (with Matthias Kettner ), Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011.
  • Business ethics in medicine. How much economy is good for health? (with Matthias Kettner), Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011.
  • Endangst und Erlösung 1 (with Friedrich Hermanni ), Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2009.
  • Free and unfree will. Philosophical and theological perspectives (with Friedrich Hermanni), 2004.
  • Ambivalence - Ambiguity - Postmodernity. Limited Unambiguous Thinking (with Richard Schenk ), 2004.
  • Business Ethics and the Electronic Economy (with Christoph Hubig and Peter Fischer), 2004, German translation.
  • Business ethics of globalization (with Karl Homann and Christoph Lütge ), 2005, engl. Translation.
  • Ethics of Consumption (with Birger P. Priddat ), 2006.
  • The Reason of Faith and the Faith of Reason. The encyclical Fides et Ratio in the debate between philosophy and theology (with Anna Maria Hauk), 2007.
  • Bitter medicine. Business ethics and economics in the pharmaceutical industry (with Aloys Prinz ), 2008.
  • Machines that will become our brothers. Human-machine interaction in hybrid systems (with Christoph Hubig), 2008.
  • Endangst und Erlösung 1 (with Friedrich Hermanni), Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2009.


  • Eduard Zwierlein (ed.): Postmodern culture and economy. A discussion with Peter Koslowski , 1993
  • J.-P. Wils: Economy Bounded. Reflections About Peter Koslowski's Program of Ethical Economy . In: P. Koslowski, Y. Shionoya (Eds.): “The Good and the Economical. Ethical Choices in Economics and Management ", 1993.
  • David W. Lutz: Article Koslowski, Peter: Ethics of Capitalism and Principles of Ethical Economy . In: Dietmar Herz / Veronika Weinberger (eds.): “Lexicon of Economic Works”, 2006, pp. 249-251.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Office of the Federal President
  2. Karl Homann: Discourse ethics and business ethics with economic method, in: Thomas Bausch, Dietrich Böhler, Thomas Rusche (Eds.): Economy and Ethics: Strategies contra Moral ?, LIT, Münster 2004, 9-12, 9, with reference to: Peter Koslowski: Ethics of Capitalism, with a comment by James M. Buchanan, Mohr Siebeck, 6th edition 1998
  3. ^ Peter Koslowski: The social state of the postmodern. Ethical foundations of social policy and reform of social insurance, in: Christoph Sachße and H. Tristam Engelhardt (eds.): Security and freedom. On the ethics of the welfare state, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1990
  4. Perter Koslowski: Business ethics - a new paradigm in economics and philosophy ?, in: Peter Koslowski (Ed.): Newer developments in business ethics and business philosophy, Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 1992, 9-17, 10
  5. Peter Koslowski: Keyword “Business Ethics”, in: Annemarie Pieper, Urs Turnherr: Applied Ethics, Beck, Munich 1998, 197-218
  6. ^ Peter Koslowski: Business ethics in the market economy. Ethical economy as a theory of the ethical and cultural foundations of economic activity, in: Christian Matthiesen: Ökonomie und Ethik. Morality of the market or criticism of pure economic reason, HochschulVerlag, Freiburg 1990, 9-30, 18
  7. a b Peter Koslowski: Keyword “Business Ethics”, in: Annemarie Pieper, Urs Turnherr: Applied Ethics, Beck, Munich 1998, 197-218, 203
  8. Peter Koslowski: The homo oeconomicus and business ethics, in: Peter Koslowski (Ed.): Newer developments in business ethics and business philosophy, Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 1992, 73-92, 74
  9. Peter Koslowski: Keyword "Business Ethics", in: Annemarie Pieper, Urs Turnherr: Applied Ethics, Beck, Munich 1998, 197-218, 213
  10. Peter Koslowski: Keyword “Business Ethics”, in: Annemarie Pieper, Urs Turnherr: Angewandte Ethik, Beck, Munich 1998, 197-218, 216-217