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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 38
5th June 2007
I. 'The Role of Business in our Society: Forces Underlying Change' by
Tom C. Veblen
II. 'Human Aspects of Economic Networking Structures' by Wolfgang W. Osterhage
III. 'Emotions -- Basic Motivators' by Robert Dunham
A cursory reading of Tom Veblen's latest article for Philosophy for Business
might give the misleading impression that his intention is merely to sing a
paean to American business. In fact, as his book The Way of Business (P4B Issue
30) testifies, his concern is with business 'superiority', in the sense of
superior business practice. It is an incontestable fact that business has been
the biggest force for change from the mid 19th century onwards. The problems
which the world faces today -- hunger, poverty and the threat of ecological
catastrophe -- are soluble, provided that business people are prepared to
deploy sufficient intelligence, courage and common sense.
Continuing the theme of change, Wolfgang Osterhage in the third and final part
of his study towards a new model for the global economy, discusses the role of
altruism, both in traditional ethical sense of concern for the other without
any further end in view, and also as a necessary tactic for achieving an
effective network amongst players in the economic arena who have realized the
value of cooperation, but remain suspicious about throwing their lot in with
those they previously saw merely as competitors.
Robert Dunham looks at the human factor of emotion and its role in the ethics
and psychology of business practice. Reacting to the articles by Ute Sommer,
Sean Jasso and Surendra Arjoon in P4B Issue 33, he emphasises the biological
origin of the emotions, recognizing important similarities between the way
friends or family members behave towards one another, and cooperation between
colleagues in a business context. Business leaders need to understand the
importance of communicating emotion, and the key role that emotions play in
overcoming personal and interpersonal obstacles to success.
I. 'THE ROLE OF BUSINESS IN OUR SOCIETY: FORCES UNDERLYING CHANGE' BY
TOM C. VEBLEN
We understand from looking about us that the human condition can be improved.
We understand further that this is a matter of directing change. And further,
that to improve the human condition by directing change, we must first
visualize both a desirable future and the means we will employ to achieve it.
Assuming you wanted to make things work better around here: (1) Where would you
start? (2) How would you go about it? These two questions lie at the heart of
our fascination with change and progress.
The varied means we use to envision and achieve a better life include such
human endeavors as politics, religion, philosophy, education, science, and
The inclusion of business on this list is relatively recent. The American
business corporation in particular -- emerging in the mid 19th Century as a
social innovator and transformer -- gained its place as an instrument of
progress by wrestling with the problem of creating wealth. Succeeding at the
task, it revealed itself as a powerful device for managing and directing change.
The role of the business firm in our culture, as a result, is a complex and
evolving one. In fact, its emergence as a significant force of social change is
a distinguishing characteristic of the modern age.
A creator and investor of wealth, American business administers a vast array of
human and financial resources; an organizer of work it determines the daily life
experience for large numbers of people all over the world; an omnipresent social
force it helps shape and preserve the country's cultural values; a political
actor it works to reform the nation's government and legal systems; an investor
in science, it is directly responsible for the creation and application of new
and useful technologies; a patron of the arts it enriches the country's
Whether the question is food, shelter, clothing, health or a myriad of other
goods and services, Americans expect business to satisfy their present
marketplace demands and to help materialize a better future. The issues we look
for business to address are complex, intertwined, and global, including:
Wealth -- The world's social progress rests on our ability to create and fairly
distribute wealth. Eight hundred million nutritionally deprived persons are mute
testimony to the failings of our present economic systems.
The Biosphere -- Management of the world's natural resource is a complex issue
of the most fundamental sort. Business perceptions and motivations play a
significant role in determining the nature and extent of the management
required to sustain a healthy natural environment.
Cultural Diversity -- An open and increasingly accessible global marketplace
brings together a diverse array of visions and values. Conflicts are
inevitable. Resolving these conflicts requires a collaboration that has, so
far, frustrated the best intentions of our political, religious, and
affiliative leaders. It is obviously one of mankind's most demanding tasks.
World Governance -- The quality of world governance directly effects the
capacity of American business to function productively, whether here or abroad.
Business Conduct -- The cultural assumptions underlying business are everywhere
different. We are in the early stages of codifying the principles underlying
In the course of time Americans have come to associate business and progress in
their minds. The list of firms that evoke this view is a long and varied one,
including Eli Lily, Medtronic, AT&T, Motorola, Boeing, General Motors, Disney,
AOL, The New York Times, Deere & Co., Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont, IBM, Intel,
Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, General Electric, Caterpillar Tractor, 3M, Wal*Mart
Stores, McDonald's and Coca Cola.
American business, arguably the worlds' most innovative and dynamic, is an
historically unique agglomeration of wealth creating enterprise, industry, and
speculation. Comprised of 20.8 million firms (non-farm) employing 112 million
individual workers, and annually producing $19.7 trillion in goods and
services, American business is a critically important leader within our society.
The idea that business and business practitioners have a crucial role to play
in shaping the society has been with us from the start. Business
practitioner-politicians such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason,
and George Washington brought their pragmatic, business-grounded views to the
process of nation-building. The result, a nation dedicated to individual
liberty that would emerge in time as a heady social brew of free enterprise,
voluntary venture, and governments (local and national) 'of, by, and for the
Like the culture in which it is embedded, American business is experimental,
evangelical, and fixated on competence and achievement and self-determination.
Promoting individual liberty within the bounds of a common law, the superior
American business is forward-looking and optimistic, believing that, with hard
work and a little luck, the forces of change can be managed to create a better
In fact, this latter notion appears not to have changed one whit since 1826,
when Alexis de Tocqueville reported on the unique character of our people:
'They all consider society as a body in a state of
improvement, in which nothing is, or ought to be,
permanent; they admit that what appears to them today to be
good, may be superseded by something better tomorrow.'
Private enterprise, as the American experience demonstrates, is a powerful
force in bringing about material and social progress. It comes as no surprise
that the idea has caught on elsewhere. Throughout the world now, people either
have turned to business -- or are turning -- in a determined effort to
materialize their aspirations for a better life.
The remarkable capacity of American business to direct forces of change along
predetermined paths toward known material goals and objectives suggests that
its role in shaping the world's future will be an even more powerful one in the
Talk about change
My grandmother was born in 1859 on a farm in central Wisconsin. She was an
intellectually curious person and toward the end of her life gained the
distinction of being Carlton College's oldest living graduate. When she died at
age 97, in Santa Barbara, California, she had experienced every mode of
transportation from an ox cart to a jet airplane. She liked the jet best.
During my grandmother's lifetime things really did change. The population of
the United States grew five fold from 31 to 157 million; the virgin forest of
northern Wisconsin and Minnesota was literally obliterated; the Civil War, WWI,
WWII, and the Korean War began and ended; Jesse James robbed the Northfield,
Minnesota bank (while she was attending Carlton) and John Dillinger was gunned
down in Chicago; the Great Northern Railroad, originating in St. Paul,
Minnesota, reached the Pacific Ocean; electricity replaced candles and kerosene
lanterns, the telephone, radio, moving pictures, and television were invented
and became commonplace; hybrid corn was discovered and revolutionized farming;
the horse gave way to the car and then to the jet airplane as a preferred
method for getting about; Novocain and the ex-ray revolutionized dentistry; and
effective cures were effected for the dread diseases of malaria, leprosy, small
pox, whooping cough, syphilis, polio, tuberculosis.
Since then, of course, her offspring and theirs witnessed a continuation of the
trend. Space travel and voyages to the moon. A virtual firestorm of new
technologies in agriculture, transportation, communications, computing,
medicine, power, household goods, printing, and you name it: a close to
doubling of the world's population; a number of vicious wars; widespread
pollution of air, water, and land; the creation of the interstate road system
and the development of cars that cruise easily at 75 and 80 miles per hour.
Were my grandmother still with us she'd probably counsel, 'You haven't seen
anything yet.' And she'd no doubt be right. My guess is that she wouldn't be
too surprised with either the nature or velocity of change. Nor do I think that
she would view change as being something outside our control. Her faith in the
good nature and common sense of people was such that she'd assume we'll be
smart enough, and courageous enough, to deal with the problems of pollution,
alienation, and general quirkiness that inevitably accompanies change.
The idea of being smarter about change, to capitalize its benefits while at the
same time eliminating its negative side, would appeal to her. And I'm certain
that she would agree that dealing effectively with change starts with an
understanding of its origins in the human condition. If I told her that
business was in the business of managing change, she'd probably think that was
grand, if I could demonstrate it.
The United States, as conceived by its founders and shaped by subsequent
experience, is a society striving to perfect itself in the light of its
citizens' commonly shared values -- life (collective security); liberty
(individual freedom); the pursuit of happiness (self-fulfillment). This ideal,
extended, reformed, and now embodied in our political systems, envisions a
society in which private citizens, familial and affiliative institutions and
the institutions of social governance interact to advance the common good;
societies in which superior persons and institutions seek to perfect their
arts, on all planes striving for greater wisdom, harmony, and achievement.
In the course of time a distinct American culture has evolved. The center piece
of this culture is a societal governance scheme that features a free and open
public dialogue protected by common law and fashioned and administered by a
government directly responsible to the people. Experimental, fixated on
competence and achievement, and evangelical about its democratic origins and
traditions, the country exhibits a remarkable drive for technological mastery
and a somewhat mystical faith in the utility of economic growth. Increasingly,
as we've prospered, we have turned to government, business, science, and
education in our search for material well being.
Embedded in this process, the modern American business corporation reflects the
distinct character of its grand culture. It too is experimental. It too
celebrates competence, achievement, and self-determination. It too strives to
perfect its governance and operations. Free to pursue its own objectives, it
too possesses an enormous zest for growth and change and adventure.
The question is, just how smart, courageous, and common sensical are its
(c) Tom Veblen 2007
II. 'HUMAN ASPECTS OF ECONOMIC NETWORKING STRUCTURES' BY WOLFGANG W. OSTERHAGE
This is the third and final paper dealing with questions around a yet-to-exist
coherent framework for the current global economy. The first contribution 
summarizes the basic principles and boundary conditions within which economies
can perform. Economic growth as a precondition for long term stability was
identified as the driving force. This assumption was put to the test by
applying it to chaos theoretical concepts. It can be shown that a growth
economy operates in a quasi-chaotic state, following a narrow line between
overheating and sudden breakdown. This relative stability can only be
maintained by ever increasing costs, which have to be subtracted from the
overall result of growth itself.
The follow up paper  investigated potential scenarios that will allow for a
controlled transition to a more stable economic regime. Two non-classical
complementary criteria were introduced to serve as some kind of measure for
future economic development: subsidiarity and sufficiency. These criteria were
considered in the context of the diminishing role of the nation state. Looking
for a substitute for quantitative growth as the one and only stabilising
'strange attractor' to maintain a quasi-chaotic state of economies, a model
based on neural network structures was introduced. The network theory itself
was outlined and concepts of self-organisation and decentralisation advanced.
The applicability of this model was demonstrated by examples of temporary
alliances and public private partnerships.
In all of the above the underlying substrate, on which everything is built and
relies upon is the human participant. He or she is both the perpetrator of the
necessary action and the object of the result of that action. This paper
therefore will continue our reflections on this level. First of all some
practical considerations concerning networking will be brought to bear. As
might have been expected the whole subject of altruism will be advanced,
leading to alternative aspects of growth.
2. Some General Aspects of Networking
In business and privately networking has to do with social relations and their
maintenance . In this sense networking can be regarded as a neutral
activity. On the other hand, networking is not an end in itself but serves a
purpose. And in the economic context this purpose is to create mutual gains for
all network partners. Therefore it is useful to define aims or targets both for
the network and for each participant alike. Everyone has to be convinced about
his participation and demonstrate the will to open up to the others for
specific purposes. In this way network participants may eventually mutate from
partners to allies.
Networking thus is an active and conscientious process. Each partner has to
develop a clear sense about his intentions. Sometimes networking cannot be
restricted to a narrow business focus only or to a particular deal. Although
the alliances may be temporary their focus may be mostly on the long term. They
are both: a technique to achieve something and an attitude. As the latter such
an alliance may represent values.
Although networks require openness between them each member must at the same
time exercise a certain measure of self discipline, including restraint where
necessary. Only in this way will its possibilities be fully exploited, and thus
objectives combined with possibilities will lead to mutual advantage and
success. Thus networking is both an active and a passive process.
It goes without saying that business relations will always be built on human
relations as such. Therefore a recurrent theme concerns the role played by
altruism in business  and in particular in our context of networking.
Altruism can be seen apart from other mechanisms that can be derived more or
less deterministically by theoretical considerations alone -- be it from chaos
theory or analogues of neural networks etc. Altruism is first and foremost a
path to be chosen by conscientious decision. This does not mean that rational
arguments concerning business aims to be achieved are excluded.
There are three main scenarios where altruism comes into the game:
sentimentality, tactics and reciprocity.
Free of all material considerations the sentimental view on altruism feeds on
the good natured side of humanity, which supposes that not only all human
beings are equal but also that the needy among them deserve to be cared for by
those who by any chance control more wealth. In consequence altruism is a
selfless exercise, where the gain of the operation always rest with the
'other'. This gain can be of material nature like food and shelter, but also
spiritually like consolation or good company. The person who exercises altruism
wants to do this without personal advantage or gain. He or she does this by
conviction and by love.
Of course any self-interested utilitarian would brush this aside by arguing
that this is make believe and the real driving force is egoism residing in the
unconscious or some evolutionary principle.
The sermon of the mount in the gospel by Matthew is in many respects a lecture
in tactics. Whereby the tactics involved appear to belong to the category
'sentimental', since they contain exactly the kind of approach that a good
natured caring person would employ. On the other hand, the tactics promoted
here do not aim at personal gain (at least not in all examples), but rather
would serve a strategic purpose. The end is nothing less than the creation of
God's Kingdom by first of all breaking the circle of reciprocity in inflicting
evil upon one another. The basis is common respect for all human beings.
However, the golden rule 'do to others as you would have them do to you' is a
Most business people can accommodate themselves to the concept of reciprocity,
which again emphasizes the utilitarian component of altruism . The
phenomenon of reciprocal behaviour is probably as old as civilization. Mankind
has always tended to compensate good by good and bad by bad. This however goes
beyond the original meaning of altruism, since it also includes punishment.
The application of non-reciprocal all-out tactics to create a just environment
in business relations would only work in a society with individuals having
rather homogenous moral standards. Otherwise the first conflict would advantage
the uncooperative. Nevertheless, there are two aspects that go beyond this
(i) human beings do indeed not only care for their material
situation but have developed a sense for justice, which is
found in most cultures;
(ii) the experience that altruistic elements in leadership
and management ultimately yield better results than a
purely conductive and self-serving approach: altruism is
simply more efficient.
4. Growth Revisited
How can such criteria as sufficiency in combination with forms of altruism in
the context of networking contribute to the eventual replacement of the
quantitative growth factor to provide for a stable economic environment?
There are some practical possibilities :
(i) Economization can at the same time create new business
opportunities: development of renewable resources and new
materials, transportation facilities and corresponding town
planning and agriculture.
(ii) Growth by improved quality and maintenance with the
aim of product longevity leading to higher prices but less
use of resources.
(iii) Regionalization: cooperative solutions and
decentralized circles of production and distribution.
(iv) Growth in immaterial goods and services: care of the
elderly or neglected children, complimentary education
programs, arts and craftsmanship etc.
(v) voluntary division of labour.
In the end it all boils down to the one word not mentioned up to now: love.
Love seems to be the only foundation that can transcend any systemic
deficiencies to keep things moving against all calculations. 'Love is the only
thing that grows when it is divided' (Ricarda Huch). Which leads me back to a
paper by Mar Peter-Raoul recently published in this journal . She uses the
Greek equivalent for love: agape. Although I do not share her radical
anti-capitalist views I would still like to quote this passage:
'Agape must subvert avarice into a new paradigm... It is
imperative that a reversal of values -- from greed to grace
-- makes space -- perhaps sacred space -- for agape over
avarice. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed agape to be the
'unifying force at the center of the universe'... The
imperative of agape is the imperative of economic justice
and the transformation of corporate values. A shift in
consciousness -- and practice -- toward socio-economic
justice, a greater sharing of capitalist profits, and a
shift in the bottom line to include worker well-being must
become the new corporate-civic paradigm. Happily, with all
the continuing greed in the corporate world, this shift in
paradigm seems already appearing on the horizon. Emerging
examples are plentiful. Scandinavian countries have already
structured the workable example of business/ labor/ and
government partnership -- each realizing that their own
prosperity depends on the prosperity of the other.'
Let me recapitulate from where we started and where this discussion has led us:
The underlying reason for this undertaking has been the observation that an
overall framework for a new economic order is lacking within the international
context. As of today a world economic framework no longer exists, although the
world economy is functioning. In this context 'framework' means generally
predictable economic development in the long run and a globally accepted legal
basis with enforceable rules.
Conventional wisdom holds that economic growth should be a pre-condition for
advancement and stability in the long run. This was put into perspective by
applying certain elements of chaos theory. As a consequence it can be shown
that such a system continually borders on the fringes of stability and is
maintained in such a state at ever increasing cost. This led to further
investigations whether a controlled deviation from such a norm can lead to an
intrinsically stable and at the same time more transparent situation serving a
broad coalition of interest groups.
For this purpose two non-classical complementary criteria were introduced:
subsidiarity and sufficiency. Looking for a substitute for quantitative growth
as the one and only stabilising 'strange attractor' to maintain a quasi-chaotic
state of economies, a model based on neural network structures was introduced
together with the concepts of self-organisation and decentralisation. The
applicability of this model was demonstrated on the examples of temporary
alliances and public private partnerships.
The limits of these ideas became obvious in the absence of legally binding
agreements and enforcement procedures on a global scale and the lack of
systematically binding mechanisms that would guarantee automatic adherence to
such principles. That was where the human element itself came in.
Going back to networking the socially relevant aspect of partnerships were
discussed. In consequence networking demands a high level of personal
involvement and empathy between its participants. This was the backdrop against
which altruism and in its various shades was introduced. Altruism was found to
be an inevitable element in economic relationships to benefit all partners in
the long run.
Thus applying networking, self-organisation and altruism under the aspect of
sufficiency, classical growth can be set aside as the one and only guarantor of
stable economic systems and be replaced by what can be termed qualitative growth
with a view of serving most interested parties in the global economic game that
is played today.
1. W. W. Osterhage: 'Economic Growth As Part of a Semi-Chaotic System',
Philosophy for Business, Issue number 36, March 2007
2. W. W. Osterhage: 'Transitional Models for Global Economic Relations',
Philosophy for Business, Issue number 37, April 2007
3. S. Bachhuber: 'Das Networking-Paradox', Christ & Wirtschaft, Nr. 2/2007,
April -- Juni
4. G. Klempner: CSR from a Philosophers Perspective', Philosophy for Business,
Issue number 37, April 2007
5. D, H. Enste, H.-P. Klos: Grenzenlose Wirtschaft -- grenzenlose Freiheit?' in
AEU (ed.): Zur Leistung berufen!', Karlsruhe, 2007
6. M. Linz: 'Was wird dann aus der Wirtschaft?', Wuppertal Papers, Nr.157,
7. Mar Peter-Raoul: The Face Outside: Staring Point, Reversal, Realistic
Utopia', Philosophy for Business, Issue number 35, February 2007
(c) Wolfgang Osterhage 2007
III. 'EMOTIONS -- BASIC MOTIVATORS' BY ROBERT DUNHAM
Self-trained emotions in business life and everywhere
In October '06 Philosophy for Business Issue 33 published three studies of
virtues in the business world. As a free-thinker I have an interest in
reinstating a) the emotions as able to contribute to good motivation and b)
attitudes as allied key entities in business psychology and psychology
generally, hopefully to counter their almost universal moral condemnation as
'snares and delusions' and 'awkward impediments to reason'.
The emotions are surely interwoven with every aspect of what matters to anyone
in life: pleasure in achievement, our self-esteem among other people, our
quality judgements (pleasure in food and art, for example), balanced with
recognition of the categorical necessity also to suffer periodic business and
personal losses, and latterly biologic loss of functions. We live and learn
these classical boundaries but within them the ever varying play of
combinations of basically five emotions gives us the subjective detail of our
lives, and is an important early part of our learning reflexes. The five basic
emotions of biology are: anger, love (& lust), fear, hate and disgust.
The three articles made a first general impact on me for their consensus that
business workers are motivated to find honourable principles for their work. I
read Ute Sommer as outlining positive progress in business ethics. This is
maintained by business organisations virtuously striving to avoid offences to
company law, while adapting to unpredictable trade forces. Your recurring
emotional response to these might be frustrations and anger but the positive
emotion (I would say 'bundled') with your professionalism is evidently pride in
your tradition of perseverance, and the latter overcomes the passing private
vexations after collectively resisting these deviations.
Groups may be affected by emotions together and mutually reinforce them, indeed
occasionally changing history by their force, e.g. the trades union movement,
voiced in rational articles of faith. Emotional statements from anyone with
influence on the public, including company managers, always has augmented that
influence and made it more long lasting. The emotions received, e.g.
encouragement may become diluted by other concerns, but the general rule is
that transfer of emotions between two or more people is by a 'medium' of power,
in a currency of 'bits' of influence however vacuous or blind they may be.
Seen in any one person their emotions (with their power and learned
consequences) presents the appearance of an inner world which one must control
by the same mental levers as in our virtuous adoption of ethical principles.
The bottom line may be thought of as endurance in achieving both, after our
private rallying of some -- the best? -- of our qualities of character in
seeking self-respect. Our capacity for good impulses is disastrously coupled
with our occasional blind emotional gropings for a secret object of calculated
or sudden desire, though taking it may be a violence to other people. The
classical view was that 'passions' led to tragedy. One would be acting
against normality in and around oneself. But crimes as such are
The articles then began to suggest links to, but also diminish the view of
motives presented here, that is as mixed as well as ideal and inspirational,
yet all importantly ethically active. Spontaneous conformity to these authors'
high standards (after education) will always earn respect for any leader, and
he will be trusted for his virtue. The most classical and honoured --
Aristotelian -- virtues are explained as showing partial philosophical
interdependence by Sean Jasso. He writes of all of them as categorically and
intrinsically desirable -- for you and for me, owner or witness -- because to be
known for giving by them would gain us admiration and influence.
This is perhaps a limitation for most of us who work to find quick-silver
experiences of 'happiness'. Maybe, because a fair degree of virtue in any
life-style is the prerequisite for good relationships, one can achieve
happiness also, when fortune is fair, through practical understanding and wise
cultivation of our emotional lives in an honourable style with our friends and
good colleagues. Witness how others need to trust us, and to relate through
direct understanding each other. If there is dependence either way, e.g.
through work seniority, the senior person must express principles to be admired
and so increase stability in the junior's cooperation, even out of the work
Virtues were analysed by Surendra Arjoon as the most importantly recognised
descriptors of the individual, and particularly of leaders. This is extended
now toward placing these 'bits of motive force' also beyond leaders'
exhortations, to become shared by the people responding. She accordingly
proposes a hierarchy of contributory virtues in any company's staff
relationships, fitting the values also given of a modern corporate culture. She
concludes that a capacity for sound judgement (implying also steadiness)
excellently encourages the moral virtues all round.
The trend to valuing the affirmatory activity of both sides of indeed all
relationships is marked by Nathaniel Branden (1994) arguing, with good
results within organisations, that their nature requires the manager to lead in
creating a culture generally of common awareness and responsibility, that is
partly governed by his (or her) passive as well as active relationships. Other
principles may work, but self-esteem is the one he presents in detail, for the
workplace particularly. Self-esteem can enable a manager's emotional, that is
motive, company messages to resonate with humanity as such, and so credibly,
through the company.
Emotions feel private but are all intrinsically tools of communication in a
single medium -- body or 'gesture' language. They are socially charged
subjective events, showing a biologically direct reaction to a new situation as
it is meaningful to the person, child or animal. It carries an implied appeal or
demand which must be evaluated with their life situation, commonly by intuition.
One learns from broad experience to estimate the sincerity of 'emotional
appeals' by individuals, and must then make one's responses appropriately, in
particular applying professional and other outside considerations. The
standards of character highlighted by our three leading authors suggest
guidelines for maintaining self-respect in handling business for a large
company as such, but the more frequent pressures of face to face exchanges
anywhere may bring us to occasional crises of personal emotion.
One may have outside obligations to family, or to club or to political party.
The broad view of these work limitations is set out in the codes discussed by
the three authors. For individuals, whom they invite to show the organisational
and visible virtues -- for everybody indeed -- temptations are to be prevented
by public displays of the risks and punishments. Personal and professional best
practice relies on combining genuineness with wisdom. Self-knowledge and wisdom
most reliably come as a result of a working and married life of progressive
experience with mentors, good company practices, and neighbourly group
experiences. These habits remind us of a default good background against which
emotion-stirring surprises can be seen as dramas within which we are wise to
remain wary -- of ourselves. Nationalities characteristically vary.
It is in the nature of emotions that responses to an emotion's expression are
variable within a range, and then as specific and meaningful as the original
expressed signal. In family life, for instance, a father's reaction to his
son's scoring an athletic feat will be pleasure and pride, typical emotions,
with any subtle urgency of expression adding strategic detail such as whether
the son then made a 'breakthrough'. Similarly in business relationships both
sides should want 'the deal'. Unless forced they will both have calculated how
it might profit or suit their side (for their companies). The score and the
result then naturally elicit pleasure in finishing and sharing out of the goods
at issue with mutual respect. Such a pattern is common to 'barter', an activity
of humans recognised as benignly instinctive by psychologists. The emotions
here can be considered and treated as essential motivators in profitable
My personal theme is that emotions have a healthy side worth thinking about and
talking over to balance ones own life, still observing self-respecting
behaviour. One may be able still to act helpfully with care for associates and
friends, as well as may an employer (emotionally and financially a 'parent').
Reflection on a certain consistency within primary emotions, particularly anger
and disgust, and frank lust, shows a natural association between these and the
Attitudes as containing emotions
A revised psychological place for attitudes might involve each instance present
in someone's character being associated with set emotion(s) to which their
regular effects are due. Also,'an attitude may carry sensitivity to trigger
events or symbols in an area of meaning for the person. Particularly when
triggered the associated emotion(s) seem to be activated, though their
expression may be distorted' -- into gestures referable back to the area of
meaning of the trigger, to emit repeatedly inappropriate responses within
behaviour. As a guideline, one may most effectively counter another's unwelcome
attitudes by meeting them openly and 'nursing' contained hurting emotions. This
is part of the process of therapy in psychiatry.
Managers, as others contributing to part-dependents lives, might well assume
that such deep irrational characteristics (or 'selective traits') are there in
individuals' hearts, and then falsely, as in 19th century medicine, that they
may be changeable only by shock tactics to match the attitude's obstinacy,
primitively diagnosed as a devil. Dodds gives a classical scholar's
distinction in ancient Greece between such a fatalistic culture (with shame)
and modern self-conscious doubters (with guilt).
Negative attitudes appear as hindrances in human relationships. The articles
that prompted this essay, all concentrated on traditional educated true
(consistent) character traits like courage. These are reinforced as moral
principles by self-respect and admiration, invoked by Aristotle himself as a
motivator. Not all of us can be blessed with all of them: we are all different.
One might aim today to refine a good character that is generally coherent
(though perhaps a little selectively revealed).
If we allow our own attitudes, such as we learn of through self-awareness, to
fit with approaching other people expectantly to understand them and share
experiences and hopes, it will surely enrich our own lives. Work relations
offer a special opportunity to deliberately overcome class and group barriers
with the added enjoyable benefit of humanising the company's operation.
Attitudes, hiding emotions, await study for self-knowledge and even learning
method theory itself. They are morally equivocal, with 'enthusiasms' --
attitudes containing love of common goods? -- generally representing virtuous
The successful Blairite method of countering negative political attitudes can
be seen to work by reduction of personal tension in actively sought
negotiation. Company managers also, even faced with entrenched and coordinated
dissidents, can counter negative attitudes within this model. They should start
with the same exploratory meetings that can open attitudes (prepared to put
their own also on the table). They should seek to understand and respond in a
friendly way to the emotions that are released, so leading into a mutually
flexible relationship. The manager can always be the better informed about the
necessary economic and logistic background.
Emotions and attitudes are relatively little discussed although they form the
basis continuously of at least our immediate reaction to events coming to our
attention. Their place, logistically less focused, alongside practical habits
and routine obligations that should outweigh them, still needs study by
individuals and leaders because the emotional component of our choices gives
the most powerful motivation to our whole range of living, gives signals to
avoid undue pain, and is the cultivatable basis of our pleasures.
1. 'Philosophy Meets Business' by Ute Sommer
'Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean: (Arete)', by Sean Jasso
'Virtue and Organisational Culture', by Surendra Arjoon together
(In Philosophy for Business (Oct 2006) issue 33
2. The Greeks and the Irrational, (1951, separately) by Professor E.R. Dodds
(tracing the emergence of guilt in ancient Greece, with that of
3. Aristotle's Philosophy of Friendship (1995) by Professor S. Stern-Gillet
(appreciative of A's good friendships, particularly 'civil', also 'utility'
4. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1995), by Nathaniel Branden, Bantam Press
(much concerned with Organisations' cultures, esp Chapter 15, p249, 'What
managers can do', inc 'Let your people see that you talk honestly, (example)'
Robert Dunham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Pathologists.
(c) Robert Dunham 2007