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P H I L O S O P H Y F O R B U S I N E S S ISSN 2043-0736
Issue number 11
29th August 2004
I. 'The Ethics of Competition in Business: A Perspectivist Approach' by
Ruel F. Pepa
II. 'The Hard Way or the Easy Way' by Michael Levy
III. ISFP Web Site Goes Multi-Lingual: Call for translators
In this issue Professor Ruel F. Pepa from the Philippines in a challenging
article offers his interpretation of the nature of business 'ethics', raising
the question whether there is any difference, from a business point of view,
between ethics and self-interest.
Michael Levy is a successful business man who started at the age of 19 'in the
street markets in and around Manchester England'. Over time, he has evolved his
own unique philosophy outside the constraints of the academic world. Here are
his 'Five principles for prosperity' which any would-be business man or woman
would do well to follow.
In the last issue (89) of Philosophy Pathways I announced that work was
proceeding on a German translation of the ISFP web site. I am delighted to
report that German and Italian versions of the ISFP site are now up and
running. Hopefully, more translations will be on the way before too long.
I. 'THE ETHICS OF COMPETITION IN BUSINESS: A PERSPECTIVIST APPROACH' BY RUEL F.
The meaning of one's life is a matter of perspective. There is nothing in our
world of existential experience that is not a matter of perspective. The
goal we set in life, the aspirations we conceive, the decisions we make are
simply matters of perspective. In other words, human existence is actually
signified individually from the point of view of the signifier. One's
perspective is generally conditioned by her/his social relations (Marxian;
behavioristic), the collective memory shared in the morphogenic field of a
community (Jungian theory appropriated by Rupert Sheldrake), and the genetic
components that constitute a human individual.
The human existential world is hence a situation where we find a multiplicity
of perspectives. And having an existential world like this, we can in effect
say that there is really nothing in it which could be called absolute and
objective (except of course those non-existential or scientific and
analytico-mathematical matters) states of affairs. We are living in an
existential world where we can only approximate the true, the good, and the
beautiful. Epistemological, ethical and aesthetic evaluations and judgments in
this reality are therefore fundamentally subjective/inter-subjective and thus,
relative to someone's (or a culture's) perspective.
It is in this light that being within the range of the same human existential
world, business in general, and business competition in particular, as well as
the ethical valuation that we apply to both, are all matters of perspective
and, hence, are relative.
The competitive market is a free arena of business exchange where the goal
of every participating product distributor or service dispenser is to achieve
maximum profit to improve the business further in terms of innovativeness,
effective market strategizing and efficient product/service promotion and
delivery. This situation calls for the sensitivity, readiness, aggressiveness
and shrewdness of the business firm and the essential personnel who constitute
it because the name of the game is competition. In a competitive state of
affairs, positioning plays a very vital role. "A firm's positioning strategy
defines how it will compete in the marketplace. An effective positioning
strategy considers the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, the needs
of the marketplace, and the position of competitors" (Russell and Taylor
The entire situation, therefore, calls for a morality that is relative to the
needs, goals, objectives, strategies and implementation of plans of a
particular business firm without ignoring that the same state of affairs is
likewise true and obtaining in other business firms within the same business
category. We call this type of morality ethical perspectivism. Perspectivism
in morality schematizes the moral conviction of employees in a business firm to
take a strong bias toward an advocacy of the firm's credibility and
"greatness." The very business firm where they work is actually their corporate
perspective. Therefore, anything done favorably to promote, enhance and uplift
the "greatness" of the business firm is morally good and right from its point
of view or perspective.
Ethical perspectivism, however, sees all competitors to be on the same
competitive platform and everything done in the spirit of competition is
considered good and right. In the realm of business in general, and in the
arena of business competition in particular, no objective or universally valid
moral principles are tenable. There is no right or wrong apart from what a
business competitor perspectivally considers to be right or wrong in the light
of what is beneficial and advantageous to its highest interest.
In the realm of business, ethical perspectivism is appropriated to achieve
competitive advantage. A businessman or someone who is an employee of a
business firm looks at the business world where s/he is into from the
perspective of his location and her/his aspirations and performance should be
determined by such perspective. It is therefore morally right on her/his part
to aim for the empowerment of her/his business organization on the one hand,
and for the disempowerment of its competitors on the other hand. It should
always be borne in mind that the business arena is a competitive market where
the perennial goal is the achievement of a competitive advantage.
In this context, ethical perspectivism sees the value of requiring a business
firm to stretch its resources for higher profits. It likewise aims to inspire
employees to conceive of novel and more effective ways to satisfy customers.
However, at this point of discussion, it is important to distinguish the
difference between the moral and the legal. Ethical perspectivism is
appropriated in this paper strictly within the bounds of the legal - within the
parameters of what is accepted in the business realm as legal on the basis of
certain laws enacted for such purposes. Deceptive and fraudulent strategies
used in business are considered illegal and must be condemned.
"Yet we must also acknowledge and caution that fraudulent
practices do exist in business and companies do use
deceptive strategies to gain advantages over their
competitors. While one company may not practice them, it
alone cannot prevent its competitors from doing so.
Similarly, while a country may have rigorous and strict
rules governing and policing fraudulent practices, it
cannot dictate that other nations follow suit. What is more
important and useful is to tackle them head-on" (Wee et al
Within legal bounds, ethical perspectivism in business competition establishes
a morality that is determined by the perspectival goals of a particular firm to
achieve a competitive advantage over its competitors. Through ethical
perspectivism, what matter most are the quality of the product/service and the
name of the business firm in the market. It is therefore morally right to be
seriously concerned about them.
1. The existential refers to the subjective or inter-subjective reality of
2. "A market where each economic agent takes the market price as outside of his
or her control... The usual justification for the competitive-market assumption
is that each consumer or producer is a small part of the market as a whole and
thus has a negligible effect on the market price" (Varian 1999:285).
3. "Positioning involves making choices - choosing one or two important things
to concentrate on and doing them extremely well" (Russell and Taylor 2000:32).
4. Ethical perspectivism is the moral theory that judgment of what is morally
good or bad, right or wrong, is a matter of human interpretation.
"perspectivism is the theory that there cannot be any uninterrupted 'facts' or
'truths', because everything we encounter is seen from one perspective or
another" (Lawhead 2003:135).
5. "Competitive advantage implies a distinct, and ideally sustainable, edge
over competitors... Real competitive advantage implies that companies are able
to satisfy customer needs more effectively than their competitors" (Thompson
Lawhead, William F. 2003. The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach
(Second Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Russell, Robert and Bernard W. Taylor III. 2000. Operations Management. New
Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.
Thompson, John L. 1997. Lead with Vision: Manage the Strategic Challenge.
London: International Thomson Business Press.
Varian, Hal R. 1999. Intermediate Economics: A Modern Approach (Fifth Edition).
New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Wee Chow Hou, LeeKhai Sheang, Bambang Walujo Hidajat. 1993. Sun Tzu: War &
Management. Singapore:Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
Ruel F. Pepa, MA, MBA-PA
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Trinity College of Quezon City
(c) Ruel F. Pepa 2004
II. 'THE HARD WAY OR THE EASY WAY' BY MICHAEL LEVY
Many years ago, forty to be exact, I started my own business at the tender age
of nineteen. The street markets in and around Manchester England were my happy
hunting ground. Every day was an adventure and despite the weather and
difficulties of getting a stall on the street market, life was always fun and
enjoyable. There was always some comical incident, even when I had to stand in
the pouring rain, with no customers in sight. And if there was no amusing event
to focus on I created one and made other people laugh.
Within a few years my business progressed and I opened a wholesale textile
company. I went on to become a very successful businessman not only making
money in my original business, but also in commercial property and the stock
market. I retired from the business world at forty-six years of age.
After a six year time-out period, so that I could understand why I was
successful with no effort, I reinvented myself and became... an author, poet,
philosopher, motivational/ inspirational/ financial speaker, radio show host,
director, producer. How was all this achieved with not a mention of the word
"work" in my vocabulary? Well, you see, I just enjoy everything I am doing and
if it is enjoyable, how can a class it as work?
When I read the headlines in the newspapers describing the corruption and
scandals in large and small corporations I wonder why the executives had to lie
and cheat to earn money? It is far easier and less risky to make money the
honest way, so why do people do things the hard way and end up in disgrace?
What makes some people believe they need a billion dollars to be happy?
Why has greed become so fashionable?
Why in many instances do we seem to treat our fellow human worse than a wild
dog? Our animal instincts, although contained in a civilized package, can be
savage and uncaring, especially in the business world. It has literally become
In life there is always an easy way and a hard way to do everything. Let me
share with you five principles of business that cannot fail.
As we climb the ladder of success there are many other folks on higher rungs
who may try to kick us down. There are also those who have not got on the first
rung yet who will try and pull us down. So how do we cope in a modern day world
of hungry hounds eager to get their hands on as much money as possible any way
Five Principles for Prosperity
Principle Number One
We should understand the world does not owe us a living. We will succeed or
fail by the amount of Joy we have for the project we will call our work. The
number one ingredient is enthusiasm and commitment for the job in hand. We have
to understand that very few things will go in the direction we desire and the
more we practice our skills, the luckier we will become. We manufacture our own
luck and to recognizing opportunities is the key to success. Every viewpoint, in
every business day, has to be explored. Never say no to anything until we have
examined every possibility and outcome. Even if we find that it is not what we
desire, we leave the door open for future development. If we are only
interested in what we can get out of any action of the moment, we are doomed
Principle Number Two
A key ingredient in a successful venture is giving rather than taking. In other
words give the best and you will receive the best. If you do not have the
ability to give the best, keep on trying different approaches until you can
give the best. Whatever you give you will get back in abundance. There are
those who have achieved money and status by devious means. They may have all
the trappings of the luxury lifestyle, but they do not possess the clear mind
to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Therefore, they are not a success to
themselves. All the stresses and strains of cheating will one day manifest into
an illness. You can mislead other people but you cannot lie to your immune
system. So, it pays big dividends to give others a helping hand up the ladder
Principle Number Three
Enjoy the 'failures' more than the 'successes'. Understand there is no such
thing as failure. Each lesson learnt, is a lesson gained. Just don't keep
making the same mistakes. Everything is a gain-gain situation. Negative people
are our stepping stones to wealth. The more they tell us it can't be done, the
more energy they give us to get the job done successfully. Adversities are sent
to test our resolve. Become a good hurdler and learn how to jump over them.
If you require an answer to a difficult problem you need to solve, try this.
Ask any questions you need to solve a few minutes before you go to sleep and
then forget about it. The next morning on awakening you may get an idea from
out-of-the-blue that solves the issue. If not that morning, then it may take
more time to solve. Ask the question every night until the matter resolves
Principle Number Four
It is far better to walk before we can run. Do not pile up too much debt. If we
cannot afford something then we work a little harder and longer until we have
the funds to expand. I know this is not the modern way of thinking and there
are always exceptions to the rule, but being debt free sure makes for peaceful
sleep. Being under pressure to pay bills is no way to live. Our purpose is to
enjoy life and our labor must be a labor of love without demands.
Principle Number Five
Remember the three P's Patience, Persistence, Perseverance. If we trust in our
'True Self' then we cannot fail. As long as we are enjoying our business
activities in the same way as we enjoy our leisure, success is assured. If it
takes a few years more than we thought to achieve our goal, then so much the
better, because we have more time to gain extra experience... It will allow for
more time for you to exhibit to people that you are trustworthy and reliable.
Integrity cannot be bought, therefore once you gain authentic credibility,
everything else you do eases into its appropriate space. It will eventually
mean other business people will regarded us as an expert in your field of
proficiency. You have mastered time and space.
With the five principles for prosperity deposited into your memory banks you
are ready to build new bridges. Networks with all the new and innovative
companies in your field. We are constantly entering new areas of Hi-Technology.
Business today needs new innovation and leadership to succeed. This is year 2004
and new dimensions of thought are need for success. Therefore, it is more
important then ever to project the five principles of prosperity.
You will also need to understand how to overcome and eliminate worry and
anxiety. It is essential to find inner peace and harmony to relieve the burdens
By allowing our minds the freedom of silence that transcends to higher
dimensions, we will find infinite possibilities. Our potential for success is
only limited by what we think we know. That type of limitation can cause great
pressure, therefore we require an objective detachment from outside events we
cannot control. We can only execute what we are able to perform at any given
moment.That which seems impossible at one moment, we can easily accomplish at
another appropriate moment.
When we open our imagination (image-maker), we open the doorway to success.
Every human mind has a wormhole in the deepest section of the brain that can
take the mind's thoughts into what Einstein called the 'Creative Mind of God.'
Einstein declared, he wanted to know what God is thinking, everything else is
mere details... and so it is.
It is never too late in life to explore your mind's links to creativity.
Even when we retire from our occupation, we must never retire from life. The
secret to retirement is to keep an active mind. I have a friend aged
eighty-seven who still enjoys working as a realtor selling apartments. He tells
me it makes him feel like a young pup. There are many hobbies we can enjoy and
maybe they will make money? Regular exercise will keep us healthy and it also
keeps the sex drive in gear. Aging signifies, life is still a joyride to an
Are you now ready to accept success?
Just one other point... It is important to note that we will never actually own
anything. We only possess what we can take on our eternal journey. We are just
renting space and time, so our success is not measured by our bank balance. We
live in a materialistic world and to become truly prosperous we need to
ascertain that when we reverse our conditioned mind's way of thinking, we find
- in whatever form our image-creation observes creativity - a Universal Spirit
guiding us on an authentic life course. What a power-force to guide us and
establish an easy way to follow to prosperity!
(c) Michael Levy 2004
Web site: http://www.pointoflife.com
III. ISFP WEB SITE GOES MULTI-LINGUAL: CALL FOR TRANSLATORS
Last week, the first German and Italian versions of the International Society
for Philosophers web site were posted on the internet.
This is work in progress. If you are a German or Italian speaker and notice any
errors, please let me know.
The German translation is by Ute Sommer, a German businesswoman living in
Turkey. The Italian translation is by Angelo Bottone, a PhD student at
University College Dublin.
These are the first of what I hope will be many translations.
The ISFP was founded with the mission to 'teach the world to philosophize'.
With versions of the ISFP web site in different languages, we could have the
potential to reach more people around the world than any philosophy
organization has reached before.
Currently, there are ISFP members in 63 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria,
Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China,
Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Eire, France, Georgia, Germany,
Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Lebanon,
Loma-Togo, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Manila, Mexico, Nepal,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines,
Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone,
Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania,
Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam.
The majority of ISFP members receive the Philosophy for Business newsletter.
If any subscriber to Philosophy for Business reading this is bi-lingual or
multi-lingual, and confident in English, then I would like to hear from you.
This is your chance to help spread the word!