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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 76
28 February 2014
I. 'Meeting Socrates: How to do Socratic Consultations' by Kristof
III. 'The Role of Science in a Modern Mobile World' by Maximiliano E.
Korstanje and Geoffrey Skoll
III. 'Seeing Philosophy in Business Writing' by Peter Borkowski
After a lapse we are pleased to be back in the business of doing
philosophy for business. Our first feature is from Belgian Socratic
Dialogue practitioner Kristof Van Rossem and gives us a practical
demonstration and explanation of how philosophical counseling
benefits his clients. As an introdution to Van Rossem's article I
have included a short extract from a 2002 interview with Lou Marinoff.
Maximiliano E. Korstanje (Department of Economics, University of
Palermo, Argentina and Geoffrey Skoll (Department of Criminal
Justice, Buffalo State College, USA) present several key works that
discuss how tourism has become an instrument that commoditizes
various aspects of the self and the environment. As some of these
works were written a few years ago, it is worth the reader's time to
go back to them to appreciate their accuracy.
I put up for consideration some of my own sociological and
philosophical reflections from teaching technical communications in
various cultural settings with mixed, international student bodies:
various musings that I hope will provoke replies in forthcoming
issues. Practical applications of philosophy will no doubt need to
play a role in pedagogical training in the future.
Dr Peter S. Borkowski
...if you brought Socrates back for a day, and he were to watch the
evening news, I'm sure he would say 'Well nothing has changed'. Human
nature is still what it was back then, and basic human problems are
still the same... By philosophical practice one generally means a
portmanteau term. It certainly entails counselling one-on-one with
individual clients, and that is probably most reminiscent of what is
generically called 'psychotherapy'. Secondly, we also work with
groups in various ways, both informally and formally. Thirdly, we
work for organisations; that can be professional groups, corporations
and governments. All of that is philosophical practice. If we are
talking about the philosophical counselling component, or
'philosophical advising' as it's sometimes called, and its
resemblance to psychotherapy, we should bear in mind that in America
the word 'therapy' has become a synonym for anything that is good for
one -- e.g. art therapy, music therapy, aroma therapy, and even Retail
Therapy (the title of an in-flight magazine). However, I don't like
the term 'therapy' because the other half of the coin connotes a sort
of medical or pseudo-medical intervention, and we are not identified
with medicine. The difference is that most clinical psychologists and
psychiatrists are attempting to diagnose according to the DSM.
Philosophers are not diagnosing because we are not trained
diagnosticians. If our clients are well and functional, yet have
philosophical questions, then diagnosis isn't necessary. In ancient
Greece, a 'theraps' was a generic attendant; while the word 'psyche'
denotes many things, including character, breath, and soul. Thus
someone who helps you attend to your character, breath or soul is by
definition a kind of 'psychotherapist'...
Lou Marinoff, from 'Philosophical counselling: An interview with Lou
Marinoff' in Psychotherapy in Australia. Vol. 8, Nr. 3, May 2002.
I. 'MEETING SOCRATES: HOW TO DO SOCRATIC CONSULTATIONS' -- BY KRISTOF
What makes a consultation 'Socratic'? One obvious requirement is that
in such a conversation, something similar to what our Athenian friend
did must, in some sense, take place. And what was it that Socrates
was doing? Hundreds of scholars in the long history of philosophy and
classical literature have tried to answer that question. Until today
we have only one answer: we do not really know what he did! As with
Jesus or Mohamed, it is impossible to understand Socrates' words and
actions while leaving aside the interpretations of the historical
texts in which he plays a role. One thing is sure: Socrates himself
did not have a definable 'method' that he applied to everyone he met.
But this does not mean that any conversation today can be legitimized
as being Socratic. Below, I describe the twenty-minute conversation
that I had with Anne. I did not know anything personal about her. She
was a participant in a workshop I took on this topic, and she
volunteered to be my conversational partner. After this talk, an
exercise followed in which the participants practiced leading a
one-to-one Socratic dialogue. At the end of the workshop, some
critical questions were addressed. At the end of this article, I
discuss some of them.
1. The conversation
Kristof, the facilitator (K): Who has experienced something
remarkable last week and can also point to a remarkable moment during
Anne (A): Yes, I have something. Two days ago I went to have lunch
with a friend. At some point in the conversation, she claimed, 'I
never judge!' But she does that all the time. That presented a
difficulty for me.
K: Why is that?
A: Well, because she is so blatantly wrong. Marian, that's her name,
is a very spontaneous woman and has an opinion about everything. I
like her for that. Going out to dinner with her is always fun. She
blurts out everything quite thoughtlessly. During lunch she talked
animatedly about her mother. I just sat and listened. And then, when
she said that she never judged, I immediately thought: 'Oh my girl,
how little you know yourself!'
K: What else did you think?
A: I wanted to say something like 'That's not true, you're constantly
doing that' -- but I did not dare.
K: Why not?
A: I was afraid she would be angry. In my understanding of her, she
cannot tolerate criticism and would react angrily if I were to
confront her with this.
K: Did you say anything?
A: (hesitates, looks uncomfortable) Well, after a moment of silence I
said something like 'Never... Well?' but in a light-hearted manner, so
that it didn't seem as if I was holding her accountable for what she
had said. Afterwards, the conversation went on as usual with small
K: I come back to my question: What did you think exactly at that
A: Now that you ask me, I did feel some reluctance. I felt it a pity
that I just could not tell her this. I thought: She'll never be a
true friend of mine.
K: What is important here? What would you like to focus on?
A: (takes a moment to think) The last part is important, I think,
K: Could you state here and now, that Marian will never be a true
friend of yours?
A: (doubts) Well, you never know of course, she could change over her
lifetime. She's a nice friend, you know. She's someone you can always
have fun with, but I wouldn't say she's a 'true friend', now. No. To
be a friend like that requires something more, I think.
K: OK, so you say: 'She's not a true friend of mine', and what does
this have to do with the moment that she said, 'I never judge'?
A: Well, it was at that very moment, when she said, 'I never judge',
that it became clear to me that she's not really one of my true
friends. I had been thinking about this for a while already, but at
that moment, it became very clear to me.
K: (writes down) 'When Marian, during our conversation, said: 'I
never judge', I knew clearly what I had been thinking about for a
while: that she's not a true friend of mine.
K: Is that correct?
K: Why did you know that just at that moment?
A: Well, I knew that because I didn't have the feeling I could be
myself with her.
K: (writes it down on sheet) Can you explain this a bit more?
A: Being myself means that I feel I can say anything I want, and that
is the feeling that I expect to have in the company of a true friend.
K: What does this have to do with her saying 'I never judge'?
A: Well, that I didn't feel I could freely say that she was mistaken!
K: OK. Do you have other reasons why you knew at that moment that
she's not a true friend?
A: There was no mutual understanding. She doesn't feel what I think
and vice versa. I must be careful about what I say to her. I have to
watch what I say all the time.
K: OK, are there any other reasons?
A: She disappointed me with her response.
K: What's the disappointment about?
A: I'm disappointed in her. To me, saying 'I never judge' shows that
she doesn't know herself, and that's what I expect from a true friend.
K: And which of these three reasons that you just now gave is the
most important one to you?
A: The first one, I think. With a true friend, you need the feeling
that you can be yourself, don't you?
K: Did you have the feeling that you could be yourself, at the moment
she said, 'I never judge'?
A: No, as I told you, I felt I had to be careful with her; that I
couldn't say whatever I wanted.
K: What would you call this feeling?
A: (thinks) I think it is being restricted, not being free.
K: And is this feeling of being restricted the most important reason
for saying you knew she will never be a true friend?
K: Why is that?
A: With a true friend, you never have a feeling of being held back,
K: OK, but why is it more important than a lack of mutual
understanding, or of Marian not knowing herself?
A: (thinks deeply) I think that's because being myself and feeling
free, rather than restricted, is necessary if a person is to be a
true friend. The other two can occur, by chance, in an ordinary
friendship, even in a true one. But when there is this feeling of
being restricted, it will never truly be a true friendship. Don't you
K: How do you know you will always feel that with Marian?
A: Well, I have another friend, Karin. She's been a true friend for a
long time, and with her, I don't feel that.
K: But do you think this can change? And change in the case of Marian?
A: Well, that's always possible, of course, but it's very unlikely.
It's a feeling that sometimes comes back, depending on the person
K: Do you have this feeling of being restricted now, in this talk
A: To be honest: sometimes, yes; I'm afraid that I might say
K: Does it mean then that I will never be a true friend of yours?
A: No, but if this feeling were to continue, then I think I would,
indeed, never be your true friend.
K: So how many times would you need to have this feeling before you
knew that I would never be a true friend?
A: I don't know how many!
K: So if you don't know how many times you need to feel this, how
could you know this, all of a sudden, in the conversation with Marian?
A: (is silent) I'll think about it later. Could we stop this now?
K: Yes, the time is up. Thank you Anne for this conversation.
A: Thank you.
2. What is the facilitator doing here?
1. The conversation starts in the middle of an everyday life event.
Anne almost spontaneously comes with a story about which she has an
opinion. I am not concerned with her opinion, as such; I don't care
about the topic, or the story. The only thing I am interested in is:
(a) Is she able to tell the story in entirely concrete terms (i.e.,
not like 'I almost always meet people who...') and, (b) Can she
locate a moment in the experience when something happens about which
she has an opinion. The only thing I do is to ask questions, so that
I have the story in front of my eyes, like a film, and facilitate her
in asserting something about a critical moment. That moment occurs
here when her friend said, 'I never judge'. That is the moment when
reflections about friendship arose in her mind.
2. While Anne is telling her story, several observations on her
encounter are introduced, such as 'Marian has a statement about
everything' and 'Marian blurts out anything'. But they are detached
in the sense that Anne does not want to make them the basis of a
truth claim. It's only after my question 'What would you like to
focus on' that she makes a claim that is more precise and emphatic:
'she will never be a true friend of mine'. Because this still sounds
like an assertion within her account, without making a point in the
here and now, I ask her if she also regards it as a claim at this
very moment, that Marian is not, in fact, a good friend. And she
does. From a logical point of view, I expected that. If she thought
she would never be a true friend, one might also expect her to say
that she was not one now. She even says that, at that moment, she
knew she was not a true friend.
3. Once her statement was made, I invited Anne to formulate her
actual reasons for seeing the situation as she does. Then I wrote
down every reason given, in her very own words. What I think about
those reasons does not matter here. I do not question the arguments
as such, only the way they relate to the experience, and what they
mean in her mind. Here, for example, the concept of 'being myself' is
not clear to me, so I ask her to clarify it.
4. Since time is limited, I subsequently asked Anne to take a look at
those topics, and to choose the most important one. She chose the
topic of her feeling unable to be herself with Marian. As it is
rather vague to me, I ask her to conceptualize this feeling. She
calls it 'being restricted'. Now that we have all that she thinks,
'on the table', the critical part comes in. I invite her to look
critically at the quality of her own arguments, starting with her
sense of their importance. I do this by asking her why she thinks her
feeling of being restricted with Anne is the most important reason.
Second, focusing on the argument itself, I ask her to investigate
whether this feeling of being restricted is a good source of
knowledge for judging the quality of this particular friendship.
After all a feeling comes and goes, but does that count as knowledge?
How long should this feeling persist or keep recurring before you know
that that isn't a true friend who is sitting in front of you?
5. While questioning this last point, I suddenly make a move to the
here and now. I ask her to compare the feeling of being restricted
with Marian with the feeling she has in this conversation with me.
When is the feeling concrete enough to conclude: you're not a good
friend? This last point remains unresolved, because of time
constraints. But Anne got fed up with it as well, just as Euthyphro
got fed up with Socrates some 2400 years ago...
3. Critical questions
1. Is this a Socratic dialogue?
A Socratic dialogue is a conversation in which you reflect
continuously on: (a) what you actually say about your experience, and
why you are saying it, expressed in terms as specific and concrete as
possible, and (b) what the truth is of those beliefs and the validity
of the arguments; this then follows as the logical outcome of (a). In
this conversation with Anne, this second movement remained
unaccomplished because time was up. The critical investigation of the
truth of her arguments had just begun. Nevertheless I already call
this a Socratic dialogue because you can see some essential
'Socratic' moves happening:
A) The inquiry starts as soon as there is a participant that holds a
claim about a moment in his/ her experience, something he or she
believes to be true. Here, it is Anne claiming that she knew Marian
was not a true friend.
B) I ask her a few times to concretize what she says in her
experiential account: What has this to do with the moment Marian
cried out 'I never judge'?
C) I ask Anne to explain what she holds as a truth. I invite her to
give arguments for her view. And I do this as exhaustively as
possible, until she herself says 'It's enough'. This is the famous
'mid-wife move' so frequently quoted. When I ask my client for her
claims, and her arguments for those claims, I bring out into the open
the knowledge my conversational partner is aware of, perhaps
sub-consciously. This happens without explicit invitation; it is a
spontaneous process. In this case with Anne, it went very smoothly
without too much pain.
D) I write down Anne's thoughts as literally as I can. This can be
done only by careful and thoughtful listening.
E) Once her arguments are on the flipchart, I ask Anne to look at
them critically. When she considers, for example, why the first
argument is the most important, she is questioning the concept of
friendship in her own mind. It is a concept that entails a necessary
condition to be fulfilled: that you can be yourself, meaning that you
do not feel any restrictions, that you can say whatever you want. In
brief: the movements that have made this conversation into a Socratic
- To take position: to articulate a claim that you believe is true
- To be concrete: to show what it means in concrete terms
- To argue: to give arguments for your claim
- To listen well, literally: to be able to reproduce what you
yourself or the other has said
- To examine the validity of your reasoning in the arguments advanced
towards the claim
- To reflect on the difference between words and deeds
2. How important is the presence of a 'community of inquiry'?
Although the critical thinking here is done without the presence of a
group, I would still call this conversation a Socratic Dialogue. Some
Socratic moves, like listening attentively, asking questions, etc.
will generally be made here by the facilitator instead of by the
group. The facilitator is definitely much more actively questioning
than in the case of a group deliberating. Nevertheless, two people
can replace the critical function of the group. The essence of a
Socratic Dialogue is not in the mere fact that it is done by a group
(as it almost invariably is done in Plato, for example). The dialogic
essentials reside in the movements I have described above. Group
dynamic aspects, such as 'finding' each other, empathizing with the
example of the other etc. are not unimportant but are subsidiary and
supportive components of a Socratic Dialogue. Empathy with the
situation of the other can also be very helpful; for example, in a
coaching or a TGI-group discussion, but it is not essentially
3. (How) does the counsellor influence what the client says?
This is of course a central question to understand what is happening
here. To be short: I accept everything on the content level of what
my client says but I do not do that on the formal level. Her speech
is the material I work with. In my client's mind, there is more than
enough content/ wisdom about friendship. But it is 'loose',
intuitive, not thought through. This is where I as a philosopher come
in. I require Anne to formulate what she wants to say in a particular
way, one that requires reflection, and much more so than she might
have expected. Following the Socratic adagio that 'the unreflective
life is not worth living', I invariably do the best I can to help my
client reflect upon what she says. So how do I do that? A simple
answer: by asking questions. But what kinds of questions? First the
questions have to be 'open' in the sense that the answer to the
question is not hidden somewhere in the question. Suppose I had asked
Anne something like 'Do you really think that being yourself with your
friend is that important?' Would that make her think? This fairly
explicit question is not in itself particularly interesting, but it
satisfies my need as a questioner for confirmation of my beliefs
about her answers more than it helps her to reflect upon her thinking.
A second characteristic of the questions asked is that they are not
prepared or prefabricated. They have to match the spontaneous speech
of my client to have their intended effects. This requires me to
follow exactly everything Anne says. Does 'following her speech' mean
that I support her opinions or agree with everything she says? No. But
my own position about friendship is simply not relevant here. Just
like a good midwife, I don't stand in the way of the birth of
reasoning in the client.
Sometimes it is very tempting not to do so, and to follow and steer
responses your way, especially when some theme is brought up that
might look interesting and worth looking into. Anne, for example,
seemed to think that she should avoid holding her friend accountable
for what she had said. That's why she reacted with a giggle to the
proposition that 'I never judge'. I found that noteworthy. But as she
does not address it as an issue, I let it pass, as part of her story.
This brings me to the third criterion for my questions: they must
enable her to investigate her thinking critically, in a Socratic way.
This means the client has to make the moves I talked about. So a
question like 'What exactly did you think at that moment?' enables
her to concretize. A question like 'Why did you know that at that
moment?' invites her to explain and to give reasons for her claim. So
do I influence the content of what she says? Yes, there is some
influence, but it is applied indirectly. In this respect, my job is
the same as that of a potter: the clay is not my main concern
(although the material must be of an acceptable quality, of course).
My job is to create the form that makes the clay (her intuitive
assertions) into a pot (her well established and critically
investigated claims and arguments). The application of indirect
influence, however, observes limits, namely, the limits the client
sets him or herself. Just like the Platonic sketch of the insatiable
Socrates, reflection and questioning for me have, in principle, no
limits. But, I go only as far as my client allows me to go. When she
is fed up with the questions, or wants to be left alone, that's her
prerogative. At that point I stop. Whenever she might want to
continue the conversation in the future, I'm her man.
4. To conclude
I conclude with a note about temptation. During the conversation,
Anne did not only non-verbally express some need for support (a
questioning look, silence), she also asked me a few times to approve
of what she was thinking: 'You need the feeling that you can be
yourself, don't you?' or 'But when there is this feeling of being
restricted, it will never be any true friendship at all. Don't you
think so?' It is very tempting here to listen to the Siren's voice
and help Anne, to comfort her, to let her feel that she is not
stupid, that her intuitions are right etc. But that is not my job! I
neither confirm nor deny what Anne says. I do not show any empathy, I
do not 'hum' or give signs of approval. The only thing I do is
encourage her to think further by adding 'Okay' a few times before I
formulate my next question. So, for me, the main activity of being a
counselor, or facilitator, is sitting down, waiting, listening,
structuring the formulations of the client in my head, and simply
asking questions all the time. I am not detached; I even listen very
closely, but without being 'near' to her. Why is this important?
Because my job is to enhance critical thinking in the client's mind.
And this means: growing up, standing on your own feet, being
responsible for what you say and think. I try to reach this with a
seemingly casual way of listening. What I do in creating clearness
and order is, quite literally, from what I 'hear' from her. I'm not
looking for any deeper truth, behind or in between her words.
Questioning socratically means working on the surface of thoughts.
What you see, or hear, is what you get. Some might call this a
resistance to the client's appeals for help, the attitude of a
'compassionate distance'. I am passionately involved with my client:
I listen very carefully and follow his or her speech very closely. I
am like a mirror, but a mirror is not the same as a person, it merely
reflects his image. I never 'play' my client's game, I don't
'understand' my clients, nor am I 'connected' with them: I keep the
critical distance. The Socratic counselor is not a saviour. His
questions are not intended to make flowers grow. All he can do is to
draw the curtains aside, so that the sun of reasoning can enter and
let the flowers grow.
(c) Kristof Van Rossem 2014
* Kristof Van Rossem (MS, Science of religions; MA, Philosophy from
the University of Amsterdam and University of Uppsala).
He works as an independent trainer in practical philosophy in
different organisational settings: companies, schools, social welfare
organisations, political parties, prisons, hospitals, governmental
organisations, and others. His specialisation is in applying
variations of Socratic dialogue in reflection and coaching processes.
He has published several articles about the topic and leads an annual
training course in Socratic dialogue facilitation. He has been
engaged in adult education and is currently teaching philosophy and
ethics at the University of Brussels High School(HUB). He trains
teachers of philosophy at the University of Leuven (Higher Institute
of Philosophy). His philosophical interests are : philosophy of
education, humour, practical philosophy, Socratic dialogue, rhetoric
and women philosophers.
For more information, please visit: http://www.socraticdialogue.be
This article appears in Philosophical Practice: Journal of
the APPA, Volume 9.1, March 2014, 1344-51. Reprinted with
the permission of the American Philosophical Practitioners
II. 'THE ROLE OF SCIENCE IN A MODERN MOBILE WORLD' -- BY MAXIMILIANO
E. KORSTANJE AND GEOFFREY SKOLL
Two scholars who critiqued the role of tourism in the entertainment
industry were Paul Virilio and Marc Auge. This section analyzes their
contributions to the theme and uses that analysis to show also why
tourism can be conceived as a way avoiding real travel or, in other
terms, an ideology that leads to nowhere.
Paul Virilio dichotomizes the world into the real and the unreal. He
proposes that technology-driven advances have created a contradictory
situation. On one hand, technology covers physical distances in
minutes, connecting people throughout the globe, but on the other, it
is alienating people in a biased reality. Recognizing that humans have
developed a natural ability to communicate our feelings to achieve
adaptation to the environment, Virilio says that the communication
media encompass dispersed events in diverse geographical points. This
information-complex obstructs the subjectivity of personhood and
instead channels it into mass consumption.
What we watch on TV is not reality, but a biased image of nothing.
This fictional dream serves as disciplinary limits to the self. The
means of transport, faster than in other times, has resulted in an
unabated acceleration that never stops. As a result, social trust has
not only declined but has been commoditized into the emptiness of
space. If the excess of velocity is accompanied by a sentiment of
inferiority, repressed in the 'social imaginary', Virilio adds, it
creates a false consciousness where human beings believe they control
death and life. The thesis of Virilio is simple beyond his rhetoric.
The acceleration of mobile technology has created much more free
time. This time is fulfilled by a false ideology where spatiality is
ended. The advent of motor vehicles allowed substantial improvement
in the forms by which people travelled as well as enabling time, thus
changing the boundaries between the here and there.
The virtualization of reality upends the boundaries between reasons
and effects. The events broadcasted by media are interposed one by
one. Paradoxically, travels are possible when the Other is accepted
alone. Therefore, international tourism that neglects the presence of
Other is the expression of moving to nowhere. In this context, Virilio
contends that international tourism revitalizes the ancient colonial
violence that characterized the nineteenth century. Building isolated
resorts and 'Club-Meds' functions as fortresses in a desert.
Symbolically, Virilio refers to the desert as a state of emotional
desolation. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that
Virilio argues that tourism is a hegemonic instrument to create
financial dependence and submission from periphery to center
(Virilio, 1996; 2007).
In a similarly minded line, M. Auge (Non-Places: An introduction to
an anthropology of supermodernity) says that tourism mythologizes
displacement only under commoditized forms of consumption where the
human bond is fictionalized. Travelers, indeed, are not interested
about the well being of others, except to encounter special
experiences that feed their egos. Tour operators, from his viewpoint,
divide the map, creating new circuits emulating a confabulated tale,
where natives are domesticated under the rubric of 'the good savage'.
According to him, tourism represents 'impossible travel' where
discovery has set the pace to conformity.
The question of authenticity in this regard was also analyzed by Dean
Maccannell. Starting from the premise that aborigines identify
themselves with a certain Totem, Maccannell argues that modern
citizens have a certain mode of consumerism, a symbolic pattern of
cultural identification. Following C. Levi-Strauss's contributions,
Maccannell argues that Karl Marx was the first scholar who started
with the tradition of understanding how social structures interact
with agents. For Marx, in his view, society projects an ideal image
of everything that can produce deprivation and suffering. Daily,
human desires and unmet needs are sublimated as a form of religion
and ideology. These types of staged-paradises are often fabricated by
aristocracies to maintain their authority and legitimacy over the
populace. In a similar manner, tourism serves as a dream-like
mechanism geared to provide modern workers an interval of happiness
and relaxation in order for them to be reinserted into production
chains. Following a Marxian development, Maccannell avows that the
tourist-experience comprises three parts: 1) a front-stage, wherein
stakeholders portray a sightseeing depiction elaborated for an
audience (model); 2) subjective emotions which trigger the experience
once people are at destinations (influence); and ultimately 3) the
agent who acts as an intermediary by gathering the synergy of the two
aforementioned elements. Are tourists attracted by the misfortune of
otherness-poverty, disease, and so on? In his treatment of the
relationship between poverty and attractiveness, Maccannell suggests
that modern tourists are not characterized by their sensibility to
suffering, but rather by their curiosity and cynicism. The quest for
difference becomes pivotal in understanding modern mobility and mass
In The University of Disaster, Virilio (2010) claims that in the
past, geography remained immutable before disasters and impermeable
to tragic issues. The advance of science moved at snail's pace by
prioritizing the quality of knowledge. Its objectivity was in the
observation of facts rooted in reality. However, things have changed.
The digital world has blurred time, prompting science to study
thousands of simultaneous events, which do not lead to any coherent
logic. The mobile industries of tourism and insurance are
progressively eroding the barriers of the city. The market system has
obliterated our sense of place. The importance of risk is not
determined by its effects, but by its substance. Everything that is
important in this world cannot be acquired without loss of substance.
This means that there is no real knowledge without risk. Reducing
major risks to zero, as modern science attempts to do, is not only a
serious error but also a way of obscuring the truth. Virilio warns
that the problems are not risks but 'the desert of the mind'
inherited in 'turbo-capitalism'. If human beings do not change their
values by introducing ethics, the problem of climate change will be
aggravated with the passing of decades.
Ironically, globalized capital is not willing to change its current
ways of production and pollution. Rather, experts and universities
are called on by insurance corporations and banks to predict the
effects of the next disasters (Klein 2007). Applied research serves
the interests of the market. Any attempt to mitigate the green-house
effect is not aimed at tackling the problem of air pollution. While
only the superfluous aspects of global warming are considered by the
financial centre, the underlying values of globalized capital that
generated the problem remain.
Auge, Marc. (1995) Non-Places: An introduction to an anthropology of
supermodernity (trans. John Howe) New York, Verso.
Klein, Naomi (2007) Shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism.
New York, Metropolitan Books.
Maccannell, D. (2003) The tourist, a new theory of leisure class.
Moia, Spain, Ed. Melusina.
Virilio, P. (1996) El Arte del Motor: aceleracion y realidad. Buenos
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(c) Maximiliano E Korstanje and Geoffrey Skoll 2014
Korstanje Maximiliano E.
Department of Economics
University of Palermo Argentina
Department of Criminal Justice
Buffalo State College, USA
III. 'SEEING PHILOSOPHY IN BUSINESS WRITING' -- BY PETER BORKOWSKI
I do not intend to put forth any thesis in particular but to express
some reflections that have arisen from my experiences teaching
business and technical communications at various universities in
Europe, Central Asia, and North Africa. In addition to the skills
(the what), we teach a particular way of doing them (the how) for
entering contemporary trends in the world of commerce and their
respective technologies, but successful communicators are so within a
-- their own -- culture. Although it is not politic to claim the
superiority of one particular philosophy of language over all others,
this seems to be largely what we are doing. I invite your views.
l. Owing to the tendency in higher education towards vocationalism,
it is in business and communications courses that many students first
encounter issues concerning ethics and the Other-ness of disparate
cultural customs. But since technical communications is mostly -- if
not altogether -- praxis rather than theoria, students are taught
prescriptively. Not only do communications professors teach what,
when, how, and why to do something, textbooks and manuals more
frequently include a chapter variously titled something like 'Writing
ethically'. Thus to teach the codified ethics of the what/ how,
particularly as laid out in North American textbook industry, is to
lay out the norms categorically for commerce and to enforce them by
means of the grading system, and in some cases by means of an
accreditation scheme. Does this amount to a an imposition of a proper
and improper way of doing and speaking commerce, and as a corollary a
way of seeing others through prescribed forms and media of
2. From the barter economy to virtual money, commerce is universal to
human societies, but it has different forms (expressions, appearances,
codes) from one place to the next. The concept of, let's say,
'business writing' as embodied in the textbook industry is an example
of one particular form of communication. I would not call this a
cultural imperialism because it does not seem to be so much
'cultural' as corporate (in the sense that the corporate does not
reflect any particular, local ethos). Hence the invention of
expressions like 'corporate culture', a culture divorced from not
only the symbolic forms and values of a culture's own unique
ethos-tradition but also from the humanist ideal of an ethical system
rationally drawn from philosophical and anthropological considerations
of morality and identity. Can fundamental points of philosophical
rationalism accommodate the cultural diversity involved in a global
commerce? How can they compete against a corporatocracy?
3. The abstraction 'commerce' becomes concrete as an activity of
exchange and thus exhibits the values, ideals, rites, protocols, and
sentiments of the culture in which it is done. Those who have not
travelled much can at least imagine the great difference between life
in an open-air bazaar somewhere in Eastern Europe or the Levant and a
supermarket or mall in a North American suburb. The business
communications of the former are intricately bound together with
complex matrices of language and tradition, whereas those of the
latter eliminate in great measure such cultural effects as barriers
to a consumerist egalitarianism. Is it possible that a strictly
rational humanism that derives all-inclusive codes for communications
and dealing with others must rationally attempt to remove the cultural
effects in which we have distinct ethnicities and thus identities?
4. In my acting school (my name for the workshop sessions that I give
for interview techniques) students are of mixed nationalities. Because
of cultural taboos, some do not consider acting as a legitimate
interview technique. Some would not put on a contrived image or an
image of confidence before an authority when humble subordination
would command more appeal. In adjusting how a person speaks, and
remarking what is a good and weak appearance, what other things am I
5. It seems, superficially at least, that just as an international
language facilitates communication, international standards of
communication should facilitate business. In the best scenario, a
universal system of communication-praxis and communication-ethics
would be a neutral medium free from all local idiosyncrasies, a
generic (global) system that people may adapt to their local
contexts, needs, and traditions for maximum gain. But will it be that
they find themselves compelled to compromise their local context to
this all-yet-none global one (especially as banks become the main
negotiators of what may and may not transpire in the open-air
I hope these musings will provoke responses or further questions that
can be included alongside other discussions in forthcoming issues.
(c) Peter S. Borkowski 2014
Peter S. Borkowski
School of Humanities and Social sciences
Al Akhawayn University