In the previous post we talked about the context in which organizations address the challenge of being ethical and successful. We have talked about organizations and now we will talk about the people who make up those organizations.
A life filled with values such as
autonomy, equality, solidarity and justice
would be worth living, would have in itself its own télos (end):
Whoever lived it would want to continue living it.
(Cortina, 2008, page 21)
A fast review of some definitions of philosophy shows that it aims to find the ultimate “why” of things, seeking “truth” through the use of reason. However, many thinkers have asked themselves from time immemorial What is man? Who am I? What is the meaning of human existence? Thus, these and other similar questions dominate the field of philosophical anthropology, as Joseph Gevaert points out in The problem of man. An introduction to philosophical anthropology.
The answer given to the question What is man? will define the field of action and of decision-making not only of common and ordinary men, but also of organizational leaders. This means that we all have at least an idea of the answer to this question.
Through philosophical anthropology, thinkers have given many answers to this question throughout the centuries. Thus, Gevaert claims that “man sees himself far from the target, alienated, not yet fully a man, on the way to realizing his existence, homo viator”. To others, like Aristotle, man is an animal rationale; to St. Thomas Aquinas he is an “incarnate spirit”; to Marx he is a homo faber, who works and makes, while to Viktor Frankl “he is the being that always decides what he is”.
The German philosopher Kant (1724-1804) had a significant impact on this work with the second formulation of the categorical imperative, when he states: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as means to an end, but always at the same time as an end”. If the organization’s leader has this type of anthropological perspective, he places people at the core of the organization.
The opposite will be the case when a leader has an anthropological perspective where man is merely a means to an end. A means to achieving other ends, a perspective where the main end is to maximize profit. If this is the case, man will consequently become a means, and workers, customers, other partners, the government and other stakeholders will simply be a means to an end. This is why we sometimes find poor companies with rich owners.
But, what is ethics? It can be stated that philosophy appears in everyday life through ethics, and that ethics is not merely a theory about happiness, but has rather been considered since antiquity as the practical art of reaching happiness: “Since the end of this science is not knowledge, but action (praxis)” and “happiness is something final and self-sufficient, and the aim of everything we do” -according to Aristotle.
Thus, the definition that is considered to be more focused for working from the perspective of ethics in organizations is the one that Kidder calls “Obedience to the unenforceable”. It is a definition where ethics is conceived from the autonomy of the individual, where he voluntarily lives the values he has taken on in his life: those that will help him become a mature, autonomous, free and responsible person.
Fernando Menéndez González
Researcher and Professor, Instituto Politécnico Nacional (Mexico)