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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 56
21st January 2010
I. 'The Hippocratic Oath of the Manager: Good or Bad Idea?' By Sean D. Jasso
II. 'Globalisation: Building A Global Ethics' by Rajakishore Nath
III. 'Two Tentative Answers on Ethics' by Geoffrey Klempner
In his third article for Philosophy for Business, Sean Jasso from the Graziadio
School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University California looks at the
new phenomenon of Hippocratic-style oaths for newly qualified MBAs. Laudable as
the aim may be, does the idea really make sense, given that possession of an
MBA is not (yet) a requirement for practising management? Is it likely to
improve the performance of managers? The answer to that question depends to a
considerable extent on what one considers to be 'good' manager.
Rajakishore Nath from IIT Bombay looks at the phenomenon of globalization
and its consequences for our view of ethics, arguing that we need a
new notion of 'global ethics' which is not dependent on a given 'grand
narrative' in Lyotard's sense, whether this narrative be the technocratic
utopia of capitalist economics, or the competing Marxist story of emancipation.
Last August, I launched a new blog, Tentative Answers tentativeanswers.blogspot.com
as a successor to my 'Glass House Philosopher' notebooks (1999-2006). The
purpose of the blog is to provide a convenient and accessible place to
grapple with some of the more interesting questions submitted to Pathways 'Ask
a Philosopher'. Occasionally, my answers have veered into issues related to
business ethics. Two relatively recent answers are reproduced here.
I. 'THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH OF THE MANAGER: GOOD OR BAD IDEA? BY SEAN D. JASSO
In a 2009 Financial Times commentary, Michael Skapinker addresses a growing
movement of business school students taking formal oaths promising to pay equal
attention to 'shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we
operate.' In essence, new MBAs affirm to adhere to a stakeholder approach to
management as opposed to the age-old 'shareholder first philosophy.' The oath is
intended to mirror the Hippocratic Oath taken by the newly graduated medical
doctor, the attorney's oath taken by the newly appointed lawyer to the bar, or
the oath taken by the new CPA. The 'MBA Oath' received momentum recently at
Harvard Business School through the scholarship and inspiration of professors
Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria in which the two argue that 'the answer to
business's crisis is to turn management into a profession like medicine or law
Khurana and Nohria's vision is noble indeed, but nobility and practicality are
not always aligned nor may they always be prudent. Skapinker remains skeptical
about the trend of MBA oaths, but the apparent movement opens the door for
serious reflection and discussion about what management really is and can or
should practitioners of management publicly affirm primum non nocere? -- 'above
all, not knowingly to do harm.'
What is Management -- Really?
This question has been defined, grappled, adjusted, improved, refined, and
customized for over a hundred years. Harvard, for example, just recently
celebrated the centennial of its Business School in 2008 and is often
considered the epicenter for management higher education. A wide literature
addresses management from various schools of thought: from the scientific,
behavioral, to the organizational to name just a few. Among the more famous and
perhaps practical philosophers of management is Peter F. Drucker who identified
management as both a discipline and practice indeed not easy to master due to
the nonlinear complexity of producing what management is designed to do --
produce effective results. Among the great innovations of the last hundred
years that have moved society forward is in fact management.
At the same time, many other thinkers in the field believe that management has
become out dated and has a wide canvas to improve its very meaning. Scholars
like Gary Hamel for example, see the necessity for management as a technology
where not only is the stakeholder approach a norm, but more importantly,
strategic decision making up to and including CEO succession can happen at the
employee level -- indeed, revolutionary. No matter what school of thought,
management remains the cornerstone of organizational productivity and progress.
Simply put, without it, entrepreneurship could never flourish, organizations
would flounder, and resources would be squandered. Indeed, fueling the need for
management is competition -- the energy that forces organizations to strive
to create the best value for all of its stakeholders with the aim of earning
value for itself.
Within this competitive environment there are winners and losers and the
winners most often owe their achievement to effective management. At the very
foundation of management lies the virtue and reality of the forces of markets --
the economic arena where risk and strategy bare fruit or failure. There is
little debate that markets which are well regulated and open to competition
have borne results for the stakeholder environment -- wealth for owners and
investors, employment opportunities for the best qualified and innovative
products and services for customers around the world. Most scholarship and
practicing managers would agree that the successful organization that produces
goods and services for society has evolved into a stakeholder entity. Most
managers, employees, educators, policy makers, owners, investors, suppliers,
and customers would sensibly agree that the enterprise of the 2000s can only
flourish when all of the various stakeholders listed above are perceived as
partners in the organization's sustainability.
In fact, the 'shareholder first' approach to running a business has seen
alternative movements that put the 'customer first' whereby providing a world
class customer experience yields customer loyalty and a higher probability of
sustainable revenues. We have even seen trends in putting the 'employee first',
the 'nation first', and the 'environment first'. All of these 'firsts' are
admirable, but in the end none are sustainable without the broader stakeholder
approach. Regardless of the trend, at the center of any enterprise is its
purpose -- usually created, defined, and mobilized by an entrepreneur and grown
by the manager. Most support the idea that the world's great products, services,
and solutions have been created by entrepreneurs energized by a freedom of risk
taking, fueled by the virtue of competition, launched by practitioners of
management to facilitate the growth of the idea, and yes -- supported by a
return on investment for all engaged in the game.
Management -- A Profession?
Before we get to the bottom of 'good or bad idea' of MBAs taking oaths, the
first question is whether the MBA might in fact already be recognized as a
profession akin to medicine, law or accounting. Properly defined, a 'profession
' is an occupation that requires significant study, preparation, and
specialization of a particular field. Like the noted professions, the MBA does
require significant study of a wide field of knowledge. The field of 'business
administration' is purposely general -- hence, the 'general manager.' The MBA
is a unique degree exposing students to the wide scope of all of the major
skills required to run an organization -- economics, law, accounting, finance,
marketing, operations, quantitative analysis, organizational behavior, strategy
and ethics are among the standards. Programs have evolved over the years to
include emphases in each of the above as well as leadership, entrepreneurship,
global issues, and an array of electives upon demand. Upon successful
completion of the master's in business administration is the new MBA whose
academic, occupation, and demographic background is among the most diverse
student bodies of the professional school programs of most universities. It is
not uncommon to see young and older graduates who have little to advanced
experience in every field imaginable at a traditional MBA commencement.
Professions are also characterized as 'practices' -- for example, a doctor
practices medicine and a lawyer practices law. The implication is that the
profession is more of an 'art' -- never fully perfected and never fully evolved.
Schools of business like Harvard are well known for their approach to
teaching business -- closer to a science rather than an art. The case method --
a Harvard signature approach to teaching -- is a scientific model that teaches
students to follow a template based on real scenarios. To provide further
intellectual diversity for students seeking business education, many schools
over the years recognize 'management' to be the art and 'business' to be the
science. I suggest an artful balance of both.
Adding support to the idea of the 'practice' of management is the well known
philosophy coined by Peter Drucker himself. Drucker professed that management
was to be viewed and practiced as a 'liberal art' because the effective manager
must use a wide set of liberal skills from politics, sociology, history,
philosophy, to psychology, among many others, to make the best decision for the
organization. Like the art of medicine and law, the multitude of variables
impacting a management decision is always changing requiring artful adaptation
by a professional.
So to this end, I would argue that management is already a profession whether
one has an MBA or not. One is not required to have a certification to be an
entrepreneur or to even run a company -- this is the great beauty and
flexibility of the market system and its bounty of creative opportunity.
However, the value of the MBA is that one has successfully completed the
rigorous and formal process of learning the critical and analytical thinking
required of managers. Can these skills be learned independently of the business
school? Perhaps. But society has and continues to put significant value upon the
individual with formal, certified management training. This is evident in the
traditional market-based salaries for MBAs that remain competitive even at all
levels of the economic business cycle. Most importantly, however, the MBA who
has critical thinking skills -- the product of a rigorous university program --
continues to be the highest value added resource within any organization.
The MBA Oath -- Yes or No?
Now to the question of whether the new MBA should take an oath. Indeed, an oath
can add symbolic meaning to the commencement of a new journey. Most would agree
that a marriage without a vow is not a marriage, new citizenship without an
oath is not official, and a presidential inauguration without an oath (though
mandated by the Constitution) is simply impossible to imagine. Returning to
Skapinker's commentary introduced above -- his Financial Times article does
incorporate a balanced debate. Where the Harvard management professors assert
that the MBA should be a professional license to practice management, Skapinker
counters this idealism with a dose of reality suggesting that any trend toward
Hippocratic Oaths of MBAs is only as good as the movement grows beyond the
In fact, there is no apparent sweeping demand from the large stakeholder
environment mandating managers to have a certificate or license on their office
wall affirming one's oath to do no harm. Moreover, and perhaps most relevant,
there exists no authentic regulatory board (analogous to the medical, legal,
and accounting professions) to monitor the fair practice and fiduciary
responsibility of the oath-mandated manager. Rather, stakeholders simply want
to see results attained within the rule of law, within the good governance of
the firm, and within the fair playing field of the market. Indeed, the
purest moral certification is beyond even the MBA degree and the practicing
manager who bears its name. As noted above, it remains the simple influence of
competition -- fair, dynamic, and value-centered -- that affirms all the
certification needed where buyers and sellers negotiate and make deals based on
good information, product utility and price. When this exchange is pure, the
ethic of commerce and the morality of the market require no oath other than a
simple hand shake. When this sacred exchange is broken by fraud, complacency
or incompetence, consumers will simply demand new markets to replace the old.
At the core of the Harvard professors' vision is an economy where market
failure is erased or minimized by the licensed practitioner. This is noble, but
unrealistic. Additionally, the Harvard vision appears to suggest that a
fiduciary responsibility by one's managerial oath be infused as a guarantee to
his or her client's best interest which comes before individual profit.
Again, this is noble, but unrealistic. This idealism is already infused in a
well regulated market system whereby profit incentivizes the producer to
innovate and compete for the sustainability of the organization made possible
only by strategically connecting to the consumer by marketing products and
services with the right quality, at the right price, at the right location,
within the rule of law. Should the enterprise seek an alternative strategy
outside of this consumer-driven market, the evidence is strong that revenues
will fall, costs will rise, and profits will diminish. No oath can guide this
arena of exchange better than the existing social contract.
The MBA is a manager of risk for the benefit of a complex, multi-stakeholder
constituency. For example, terminating thousands of employees for the
sustainability of the firm up to and including macroeconomic development is
often a necessary management decision even as difficult or unpopular the
consequences might be. The question for society is whether a manager's decision
would be any different if an oath affirming his or her honor to do no harm would
make a difference and, most importantly for whom? Skapinker's article begins
with a focus on the trend of schools of business incorporating the oath into
their programs and the Harvard professors seem to exploit a down economy
influenced by corporate corruption as one of the reasons behind the crisis.
In a market based economy where business, government, and society are
interdependent, the idea of requiring MBAs to take an oath to effectively
manage an organization's assets and liabilities for the good of society is much
like asking new parents to take an oath affirming they will do no harm, minimize
risk, and ensure a holistic balance of the child's development for the good of
humanity. Simply put, good managers will navigate the organization toward
results and ineffective managers will be expelled by the most powerful measure
of them all -- the consumer and the owner each demanding value for their
As stated in the opening, the purpose of this article is for all stakeholders
of the business enterprise to engage in a debate of serious reflection as to
what management means in society -- particularly in the society of tomorrow.
There is no disagreement that the general welfare of a global community linked
by markets requires good management practiced by ethical decision makers. Yet,
what remains to be seen is to what degree consumers of this market system place
on the authenticity of those who earn a degree in management. Though the
Hippocratic Oath of the Manager may inspire new MBAs to do no harm, the
validity of the good manager is much deeper than any oath. As stated throughout
this article, the well regulated, dynamic, and competitive market will take care
of the bad behavior.
At the dawn of the new decade in an era where globalization of trade and ideas
shows only forward momentum, the effective manager will be the one who embraces
the freedom of opportunity with the responsibility of managing risk for a wide
stakeholder environment dependent on the firm's sustainability. So, to answer
our original riddle of the management oath -- good or bad idea? As argued, the
oath need not take place at the commencement of a degree, but rather in the
quiet of the manager's heart because the morality of the market is nothing
without the morality of the good man or the good woman. Perhaps the better
question we must ask of managers is actually the simplest of them all -- what
do you stand for?
1. Financial Times, June 23, 2009.
2. Khurana, Rakesh and Nohria, Nitin (2008) Harvard Business Review (October),
3. Financial Times, June 23, 2009.
4. Hamel, Gary (2007). The Future of Management (with Bill Breen). Boston, MA:
Harvard Business School Press.
5. Porter, Michael (2008). On Competition: Updated and Expanded Edition. Boston,
MA: Harvard Business School Press.
6. Carroll, Archie B., and Buchhotz, Ann K. (2008). Business and Society:
Ethics and Stakeholder Management, 7th Ed. Florence, KY: South-Western Cengage.
7. Drucker, Peter F. (2008) Management: Revised Edition (with Joseph A
Maciariello). New York, NY: Harper Collins.
8. De Kluyver, Cornelis A. (2009). A Primer on Corporate Governance. Williston,
VT: Business Expert Press.
9. Zak, Paul J, Ed. (2008). Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the
Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
10. Khurana, Rakesh and Nohria, Nitin (2008) Harvard Business Review (October),
(c) Sean Jasso 2010
Sean D. Jasso, Ph.D.
Faculty in Economics
Graziadio School of Business and Management
II. 'GLOBALISATION: BUILDING A GLOBAL ETHICS' BY RAJAKISHORE NATH
Ideas of or about 'globalisation' are so wide, diverse and changeable
that they include anything on any subject. In this respect
globalisation with its all pervasive and complex set of ideas appears
a controversial concept. In every discipline, it is employed to
analyse or explain current political, social, economic and cultural
trends. Therefore, it is natural for any one to ponder over the
meaning of the term 'globalisation'. In other words, what does
globalisation mean? As we know globalisation entails diverse
meanings. Scholte, gives five definitions of globalisations.
Firstly, he views globalisation as internationalization. Here,
globalisation is viewed as to describe cross-border relations between
countries. It describes the growth in international exchange and
interdependence. There is also possibility of moving beyond an
international economy because of growing trade and capital investment.
Secondly, he considers globalisation as liberalization. Here,
globalisation refers to a process of removing government imposed
restriction on movements between countries in order to create an
'open', 'borderless' world economy.
Thirdly, he regards globalisation as universalisation. Here,
globalisation is the process of spreading various objects and
experience to people at all corners of the earth. A classic example
of this would be the spread of televisions, phone, internet, etc.
Fourthly, he believes globalisation as westernisation or
modernisation. Here, globalisation is understood as dynamic, whereby
the social structures of modernity (capitalism, rationalism,
industrialisation, bureaucratic, etc.) are spread all over the world,
normally destroying pre-existent cultures and local self-determination
in the process.
Lastly, he thinks globalisation as deterritoralisation. Here,
globalisation entails a reconfiguration of geography. So that social
space is no longer wholly mapped in terms of territorial distances
and territorial borders. Thus, Anthony Giddens defines 'as the
intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant
localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events
occurring many miles away and vice versa.'
In the above definitions of globalisation, we find both a pessimistic
and an optimistic view of globalisation. According to the pessimistic
view, globalisation is a form of recolonisation of the poor nations
of the world by the rich and militarily superior nations. The process
has disastrous implications on majority of the poor people and
nations. It promotes Euro-American values and lifestyles and
undermines other local cultures in a systematic and uncritical
manner. The integrity and independence of local and national social
organization tend to be diminished by forces of globalisation.
Some writers have viewed globalisation in a more optimistic light.
According to the optimistic view, globalisation is a process that
integrates the diversities of humankind. This process is based on and
justified by the social and rational nature of human constitution. As
social and rational beings, humans increasingly become aware of their
interdependence. Globalisation is the logical culmination of this
increasing awareness. It involves the deliberate dissolution of human
interaction and the promotion of opportunities for cross-cultural
dialogue. Such a process is regarded as the very constitution of
Moreover, the above definitions also, in one way, highlight the
territorial demarcations of state jurisdiction and associated issues
of governance, economy, identity and community. In another way,
distinguished from the above, it (globalizations) refers to the
contemporary wide opening of borders as state removes countless
regulatory barriers to international trade, travel, financial
transformation and communications. Here, 'globalisation' is used
synonymously with 'liberalisation', as we have already discussed
earlier in this paper. On this account, the term describes the
creation of a single borderless world.
The above statements follow that this globalising capitalism ends
state's core attribute of sovereignty. As we know, sovereignty
accords each state with supreme, comprehensive and exclusive rule
over its territorial jurisdictions. In other words, sovereign states
face no higher authority either with other states, or with other
centers of governance. In the scheme of globalisation, the
principle of state sovereignty is sometimes violated to some extent.
According to Gare, globalisation is associated with new forms of
media, new forms of technology, and new forms of management which
have transformed the spatio-temporal relations within capitalism.
Within this unity, space and time have acquired new meanings. The
easy communication can take place over vast distances, and the speed
with which people and goods can be moved from one part of the globe
to another has undermined our conceptions of space and time as
barriers that were difficult for people to overcome.
Hattingh points out that there are three main branches of the new
* Transnational co-operations.
* International financing.
* Multimedia marketing.
In conjunction with one another, these institutions not only outstrip
the political power of the most of nations, but also can effectively
take control of national economies. This represents shifts in the
balance of power, decentering the cultural, economic and political
significance of the 'core nations' of the past (Europe and America),
but at the same time undermining and destabilizing the identities of
the so-called growth nations or emerging markets of the world that
are newly incorporated within the world's economic system.
The ideology underlying this process of globalization has been
characterized by Arran Gare as,
... not only monetarism, rational expectations theory and
supply side economics, the ideological weapons of the new
right in their struggle to take apart social welfare
provisions and institutions and to promote the deregulation
of markets and reduction of trade barriers, but also by the
rapid expansion of economics and computer modeling, and
transformation of economics from science primarily
concerned with guiding political policy-making to a science
concerned to guide investment decisions by financiers.
This ideology is self evident to many, and it can be questioned on a
number of important philosophical points.
Firstly, the economic rationality of globalization is embodied within
a grand narrative of universal progress for mankind through scientific
management that in itself is far from self-evident. It emphasizes on
scientific-technological control. It entails a drastic narrowing down
of a wide humanistic perspective in which particularity and diversity
are important to a perspective that is predominantly mechanistic in
nature and reduces the value of everything to its instrumental values.
Secondly, the new bourgeoisie of the global economy believe that they
have realised the goals of enlightenment. In respect to the above
sentence, Gare rightly mentions that for the new bourgeoisie there is
nothing but power for the sake of power, and control for the sake of
control, and conspicuous consumption on a massive scale.
What is lacking in this respect is a self-critical awareness that the
model of progress and development that is envisaged here is that of a
particular historical class of people; it has never represented the
universal ideals of humankind. This picture also does not recognize
that instead of progress and development for all, globalisation has
brought instability and uncreative to many levels, if not starvation
and death to millions of people. The environmental correlate of this
is technologically marked, degraded and fragmented, landscape
exploited, as they are to serve as the resource bases of ever
increasing demands of global production and consumption.
As we notice the prevalent economic rationality of globalisation, it
implies that threats from unknown invasives to resources or the
environment that cannot be translated into significant monetary
figures will have no hope of ever being addressed. Within the
economic rationality of globalisation, it seems as if money, which
can be quantified, will always win, and that aesthetic, recreational,
cultural and spiritual values that cannot be translated into monetary
terms will always lose out.
On the one hand, there arise several confusions such as whether this
kind of economic rationality should be allowed to prevail, or whether
we should make peace with the fact that this is what the world is
currently undergoing. On the other hand, whether we should try to
make adjustments to our universal progress through scientific
management or whether we should consider that time has not come to
reconsider this universal progress.
In order to answer all these questions, Lyotard characterizes the
postmodern conditions as a breakdown of faith in grand narratives.
As he sees it; humankind has legitimised its knowledge and actions.
What counts as ethical actions are authorised by certain narratives
structure in a society? Society in itself is constructed through
narratives. Hence, there is a constant challenge between narratives,
and the fact that certain narratives can dominate the other. Thus, he
contends that it is much more difficult to establish a new narrative
than to make a new move with an existing one.
This is because the stability and the optimum functioning of the
system are guaranteed by science, as the highest value. Accordingly,
knowledge and action are justified in so far as they contribute
towards the particular ideas of the optimum functioning, integration
or maintenance of a society.
Hattingh shows another story that opposed this technocratic narrative
of self-regulation. This story divided society into two classes.
Here, Hattingh's story belongs to the Marxist version. The class
struggle and dialectics ensure progress in a society. As we know,
knowledge and action are justified in so far as they contribute
towards the formulation and establishment of alternatives to the
(capitalistic) system. It is clear that this critical model has not
only lost its political credibility but also marginalising it to the
status of 'utopia' or 'hope' with symbolic action as perhaps the only
form of protest against the system that is still open to it.
In the above case, Lyotard sees both of these stories are grand
narratives. The first one constitutes the grand narrative
systematical that dominates our world to a very large extent today,
while the second constitutes the grand narrative of emancipation.
By a grand narrative, Lyotard understands a story in which an
all-encompassing vision of history and society is articulated under
the pretension that portrays the whole and the only truth about
it. Such grand narratives are metaphysical and ethical in nature,
assuming the existence of an original or fundamental truth behind
empirical reality from which everything is derived, or towards which
everything is developing. Therefore, a grand narrative exclusivist,
totalizing and authoritarian in its functioning, exerts a kind of
violence in so far as it establishes itself as the only possible
framework from which to operate.
Now the question is: Can ethics step outside of the grand narrative
frame works? The answer is 'no' because, as we have said earlier, an
important feature of ethics is that it cannot step out side of grand
narrative framework itself. It finds itself in the paradoxical
position that every explanation and examination of narrative
frameworks takes place within an ethical framework.
From the above study, we can infer that the whole universe is a
global universe. We human beings are part of this global universe.
The human beings can think globally and act locally, but this is only
in abstract form. This is because of one-way globalisation. In other
words, the globalisation is only in epiphenomenal way; that is to say
that the majority of countries supervene on western country and the
latter creates dominant nature on other. And there is also crisis in
global economy, global ecology, and global politics. This is because
of lack of a global vision, the tangle of unresolved problems,
political paralysis, mediocre political leadership with little
insight or foresight, and in general too little sense for the common
well are seen everywhere. We adopt globalisation to solve problem,
rather it creates many problem, and this does not mean that I am
against globalistion. In order to avoid crisis or maintain harmony in
this universe, we have to perform various ethical traditions. The
ethical traditions can only build a global universe, other wise, it
is very difficult to realise the success of globalisation. Here, I am
not saying that globalisation will not be realised in a positive way,
but it will be realised only to some extent. It can fully be
realisable only through ethical traditions.
Moreover, these ethical traditions should be globally acceptable. In
our diverse ethical and religious tradition, our common convictions
are to speak out against all forms of humanity and for humanness; in
our treatment of ourselves, one another and the world around us. In
our traditions, we find
* grounds in support of universal human right,
* a call to work for justice and peace, and concerns
for conservation of the earth.
We approve the positive human values such as, equality, democracy,
recognition of inter dependency, commitment to justice and human
rights. Firstly, a just global order can be possible only through a
global ethics that clearly states universally recognized norms and
principles; such a global ethics presumes a readiness and intention
on the part of people to act justly.
By global ethics I do not mean a global ideology or a single unified
religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the
domination of one religion over all others. By a global ethics I mean
a fundamental consensus on binding values, valuable standards, and
personal attitude. In absence of such fundamental consensus on an
ethic, sooner or later, every community will be threatened by chaos
or dictatorship, and individual will disappear. In order to build
humanity in a wide consensus we have to believe and practice
following ethical principles which are indispensable for a global
Firstly, every human possesses an alienable and inviolable
dignity. Individuals, states, and other social entities are obliged
to respect and protect the dignity of each person.
Secondly, no person or state exists beyond the scope of
morality, every individual and social organisation is obliged to do
good and avoid evil.
Thirdly, human are endowed with reason and conscience. The
great challenge of being human is to act conscientiously;
communities, states and other social organizations are obliged to
protect and foster these capability.
Fourthly, communities, states and other social organizations
that contribute to the good of humans and the world have a right to
exist; all should respect this right.
Fifthly, humans are a part of nature; ethical concerns extend
beyond humanity to the rest of the cosmos. In short, it is not just
anthropocentric, but cosmo-anthropocentric.
All the above principles will make every body easier if we shall
follow the golden rule. The golden rule has been affirmed in many
religious and ethical traditions, as a fundamental rule which to base
a global ethics: 'what you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to
others,' or in positive terms, 'What you wish done to yourself, do to
others.' This rule should be valid not only for one's own family,
friends, community and nation, but also for all other individuals,
families, communities, nations the entire world, the cosmos. This can
be said to be the golden rule.
There are basic principles in order to practice global ethics. Here,
I would like to mention some important points. Firstly, freedom is
the essence of human being, every person is free to exercise and
develop capacity, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of
other persons. Moreover, human freedom should be exercised in such a
way as to enhance the freedom of all humans and due respect for all
things, living and non-living. At the same time, all individuals and
communities should follow all just laws, obeying not only the letter
but also most especially the spirit. Secondly, all humans should
always be treated as ends, never as mere means. That is to say, all
human in every encounter with others should strive to enhance the
fullest the intrinsic dignity of all involved. And lastly, we should
necessarily seek truth. This will lead to authentic self-love and
love for others. Love is co-relatively linked in such a way that
ultimately it is drawn to become all-inclusive; love should be
recognized as an active principle in personal and global interaction.
Notes and References
1. Scholte, Jan Aart, Globalisation: A Critical Introduction,
Palgrave Publishing Ltd. (Formerly Macmillan Press Ltd.), USA, 2000,
2. Giddens, Anthony, The Globalizing of Modernity, in The Global
Transformations Reader: An Introduction to the Globalisation
Debate, David Held and Anthony McGrew (ed.), Blackwell Publishing
Inc, Malden, USA, 2004, p. 60.
3. Scholte, Jan Aart, "Global Capitalism" in International
Affairs, V.73, No.3, July 1997, Pp. 427-452.
4. Gare, A. E., Postmodern and the Environmental crises.
London: Rutledge, 1995, p.6.
5. Hattingha, Johan, Human Dimensions of Invasive Allen Species In
Philosophical Perspective: Towards An Ethic of Conceptual
Responsibility, The Great Reshuffling: Human Dimensions of
Invasive Alien Species, Jeffrey A. McNeely (ed.), IUCN, Gland,
Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, 2001, Pp. 183-192.
6. Gare, A. E., Postmodern and the Environmental crises, 1995,
7. Lyotard, J. F., The Postmodern condition: A Report on
Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984,
8. Hattingha, Johan, Human Dimensions of Invasive Allen Species In
Philosophical Perspective Towards: An Ethic of Conceptual
Responsibility, The Great Reshuffling: Human Dimensions of
Invasive Alien Species, Jeffrey A. McNeely (ed.), 2001, Pp.
9. Lyotard, J. F., The Postmodern condition: A Report on
Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984,
(c) Rajakishore Nath 2010
Assistant Professor in Philosophy
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
III. 'TWO TENTATIVE ANSWERS ON ETHICS' BY GEOFFREY KLEMPNER
On Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 21:19:28
Tigist asked this question:
If it's true that we are here to help others, what are the others doing here?
Tigist is quoting -- or rather misquoting -- a remark reputedly made by the
famous poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973):
We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others
are here for, I don't know.
The last time I heard this was in a sharp exchange which I had with the
business ethicist Tibor Machan (recorded in my Glass House Philosopher, second
notebook page 106).
I'd expressed a view about Ayn Rand's 'virtue of selfishness' in my article 'On
the Possibility of a Business Ethic' (Philosophy for Business Issue 27) which
Machan strongly objected to. I won't rehash the debate here. Machan quoted Auden
as a rejoinder to what he saw as 'this widespread eagerness to deem all of us
altruists'. I regret that I didn't take the opportunity to analyse exactly what
Auden meant to convey by his witty remark. In philosophy, you don't judge a
quote by how well it sounds, but by how good a case it makes.
In her question, Tigist talks of being 'here to help others' whereas Auden
merely says 'do good for others'. The difference is more than a shade of
meaning. There are many ways in which you can do good for others which would
not count as 'helping' them. A painter who paints a painting or a novelist who
writes a novel which gives pleasure or inspiration to others is not 'helping'
them thereby. To disseminate one's work (as I'm doing here) is not an act of
selfless giving but rather closer to what Nietzsche described as the 'will to
power'. We need others in order to express ourselves, in a sense, in order to
be what we are.
Maybe I'm giving a spin on Auden's words which he didn't intend. But at least
on this reading, one can say that he is not attacking a straw man. According to
this interpretation, what Auden is seeking to reduce to absurdity is not the
view that the reason why we are here is to perform acts of charity, but rather
the view that we are here so that others may benefit in some way from the
actions that we do or the things that we produce.
Why is that so wrong? If we are here merely to help others, then the question
naturally arises, 'help them do what?' Help us? Help some third class of
persons not yet accounted for? On the other hand, if we are here to produce
something of benefit to others, there is surely no absurdity in the notion that
every member of society has something to offer, according to his or her talents
Ayn Rand admired the producers -- be they novelists, film producers or business
tycoons -- who do things that others benefit from. Yet she passionately believed
that the only valid basis for this is egoism. I am writing this for myself, not
for you, the reader. Whatever value these words have derives from my integrity
as a writer or (dare I say) as a philosopher. -- If you don't like the cut of
my writing, you can surf away to another web site.
Exactly the same principle applies in business. (Here, it could be argued that
Ayn Rand betrayed herself as possibly too idealistic for the nitty gritty
realities of the business world.) Suppose I create a design for a better
mousetrap. As the saying goes, 'the world will beat a path to your door'. It's
a win-win situation: I make a profit from marketing my invention which I can
use to improve the life of myself and my family, and the lives of others are
improved through the reduction in the population of house mice, not to mention
the employment opportunities generated by the ever-increasing orders for
Ayn Rand didn't merely promote this notion of egoism as a virtue. She saw the
opposite, 'self-sacrifice' or 'altruism' as a vice. Those who praise altruism
are deniers of life, who denigrate all that is best about what it is to be an
individual -- what it is to be human.
As a writer, what I am here for is to write. What you are here for, is to read.
Converting this observation into a general principle, I am here to create, while
others are here to enjoy the fruits of my creation. That would be fine if we are
prepared to make a distinction, as Nietzsche did, between two classes of human
being, the mensch and the ubermensch. The ubermenschen or 'over-men' (in some
translations, 'supermen') are the value producers, while the rest of us are
merely value consumers.
It is the weakest link in Nietzsche's philosophy that he couldn't see a way to
define a common good for all human beings, and not just a special elevated
class. Aristotle, whose Ethics and Politics in many ways provides the model for
Nietzsche's conception of human flourishing, was able to avoid that fatal step
by seeing every human being, from the ruler down to the slave as having their
justified place in the polis. There are virtues appropriate to every station in
F.H. Bradley passionately defended this Aristotelian idea of virtues
appropriate to one's station in his essay, 'My Station and Its Duties' (in
Ethical Studies, first published in 1876). However, the clearest expression of
Bradley's recognition that the possibilities of human life span a continuous
range from pure 'self-assertion' to pure 'self-sacrifice' occurs in his
metaphysical treatise Appearance and Reality (2nd edition 1897, pp. 414-429).
This is the core of my case. All human values ultimately involve reference to
'the other'. No man is an island. That doesn't mean we all have to be eager
do-gooders. It is one of the fundamental existential choices which human beings
face, where exactly we exist on the continuum between self-assertion and
self-sacrifice. Nietzschean will to power is vitally important, but so is
Humean sympathy. As the Jewish Talmud reminds the faithful, whatever your life
plan, do not forget to make necessary provision for 'the widow and the orphan'.
Ayn Rand hated the idea that others less fortunate than ourselves have the
right to demand our aid. Yet all the developed countries accept this basic
principle. Yes, of course, there is self-interest involved, it is not pure
altruism. But the point I am arguing is that no-one is purely altruistic or
purely selfish. We have the right to assert ourselves, the right to personal
integrity. We don't have the right to shut our eyes and ears to what is going
on around us, or the pleas of those less fortunate than ourselves.
On Thur, Jan 14, 2010 at 18:01:19
Lfand asked this question:
Does a moral philosopher, or a student in moral philosophy as I am, have an
obligation to behave morally, or in a much more moral way than anyone else (as
Which do you think is worse, hypocrisy or arrogance?
If I tell you that I am more moral than you because I am a moral philosopher,
then isn't that just arrogance? On the other hand, if I tell you that despite
the fact that I am a moral philosopher, I do not regard this as having any
consequences for the morality of my actions, isn't that just hypocrisy?
If anyone claims to be more moral than I am, then it takes all my powers of
self-control to prevent me from giving them a smack. So don't parade your moral
virtue in front of me, I won't be impressed. And don't call me a hypocrite just
because I refuse to parade my moral virtue in front of you.
I don't like philosophers who preach. In the past, I have nearly succumbed to
the temptation, in my erstwhile incarnation as a philosopher of business. My
ten part Ethical Dilemmas course ('a primer for decision makers') contains
guidelines for business people designed to help them think more clearly about
moral issues. However, thinking clearly about a moral issue can sometimes mean
seeing that whatever you do will be 'wrong' -- from one point of view or
another -- so don't feel too bad about it. Just do what you've got to do.
What is 'morality'? It is an ugly word, but so is 'ethics'. When philosophers
distinguish between the two, it is usually for the sake of some pet theory. I
personally don't have a view on this and don't care what term one uses. (My
usage generally accords with what Fowler mildly denigrates as 'elegant
variation'. When I get bored with using the term 'moral', I switch to 'ethical',
and vice versa.)
When Marx in his 11th thesis on Feuerbach stated that philosophers should
seek to change the world rather than merely interpret it, he was in a way
restating the view expressed 2500 years earlier by Socrates in Plato's dialogue
Phaedo. In a long, memorable passage, (96a ff.) Socrates explains why he lost
interest in the physical speculations of his predecessors, in particular
Anaxagoras. 'Man' and the question how one should live is the central concern
My own taste veers towards 'interpreting the world', understanding the nature
of existence. I would like to understand ethics, or morality, because the
phenomenon puzzles me. I don't mean this in a superficial sense. I accept that
ethics is a direct route to metaphysics, and you can't do metaphysics without
at some point tackling ethics. But what has ethics, or metaphysics, taught me
(if only incidentally) about right or wrong, or how I ought to live?
I have real problems with the idea that there are some things I 'must' or have
an 'obligation' to do, by contrast with the things I desire for myself. To my
mind, I don't do things 'for myself', or 'for others' but simply for a reason.
Anything else would be irrational. But maybe I mean something different by
'reason' than you do. Being 'fun' is a reason, so I do some things for fun. But
sometimes you have avoid things which would be fun, or do things which are
positively not fun. It might be fun to knock a policeman's helmet off, but the
reason for not doing so is (in most cases) stronger.
This is where the real problem arises. Just because, being a philosopher (or a
moral philosopher) you aim to understand and see more, there is a danger that
you see reasons for action that other persons fail to see, or indeed that you
will see through what others mistakenly take to be valid reasons for action. In
other words, it's simply about being true to what you know.
Following this line of reasoning, it would be perfectly logical -- perfectly
rational -- to come to the conclusion that, as a result of what you now know
(which you didn't know before) you realize that in the past you have been more
moral, more ethical than you ought to have been. You foolishly allowed yourself
to be swayed by irrational considerations into doing acts which won moral praise
from others, which you ought not to have done, and would not have done had you
Let's say you are a previously ardent Christian who reads Nietzsche and
concludes that much of what you thought was ethical is merely the expression of
'herd morality'. You unwittingly allowed your emotions to be manipulated by
others to their own ends. Or, let's say you are a previously ardent Socialist
who reads Ayn Rand and discovers the 'virtue of selfishness'.
I am not putting forward these philosophers as necessarily representative of my
own views; I am merely stating a point of principle. If you look into morality
with the unblinking eye of a philosopher seeking truth, there's no saying in
advance what you may discover or where your investigations may take you.
What I believe is true -- and I don't consider it arrogant to say this -- is
that the study of philosophy has made my life better. I don't mean this in a
moral sense, or a non-moral sense because I don't recognize the distinction. I
see meaning, where others struggle to see meaning. But nor is 'helping others
to see' a reason for what I do. How could it be, if I didn't have a reason to
be a philosopher which was a reason for me?
4. H.W. Fowler Modern English Usage (Oxford University Press)
6. Plato Phaedo (any edition, Stephanus references)
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2010