I am an interested amateur philosopher, working in commerce as a business consultant. I see a great
need for discussion of and application of higher ethical standards in business. I also think that the
majority of business decision makers would benefit from the introduction of some philosophical
thinking into their training and ongoing personal development. I further think that they would enjoy it
and it would encourage them to help us make a better world.
The continuing existence of this vacuum leads me to conclude that most philosophers are too
introspective or too involved in exchanging erudite opinions and speculations with their colleagues
and not enough concerned with how their thinking could be applied in the real world to real world
Are there philosophers who are engaging with working people to demonstrate how exciting
philosophy can be, and how it can be applied with advantage to personal and strategic issues in the
Well, let's take it from the top. First, of course, as a philosopher, I completely agree with your first
paragraph. And there are courses in medical ethics, business ethics, philosophy of education, and so
forth, in virtually all our universities.
Second, what vacuum? You merely state that people would benefit from this. I assume you're
implying that they don't have it, and that it is the fault of philosophers that they don't. A strange
assumption, to my way of thinking. Lets see... how would I go about educating 'business decision
makers'? Publishing a journal in ethics? No... that's being done. Writing about ethics in newspapers...
being done. Courses in ethics... being done. How about this: ethics courses and seminars in
businesses! Great idea. Who's going to pay for this...? The business leaders who need the ethical
lessons. Right. Whoops... we seem to have hit a snag here, haven't we. First, they won't pay.
Second, even if they do pay, do you actually think that a few seminars are going to change their
minds? I guess I'm more cynical than I thought... because I certainly don't think so.
So the solution seems to be to have ethical education in high school and before that. Well, that's a
nice idea... and who's going to pay for that? Look around you; what's happening to money for
education? Yes. Ok... philosophers should just volunteer their time, since there are so many of them
and they're so overpaid anyway, to teach in the schools...? Not a bad idea either, except that to teach
you need certification, etc... all of which takes time, costs money... and that time and money are taken
from doing philosophy, which, believe it or not, is actually quite difficult.
We seem to have some problems here, don't we. First, money. People won't pay for philosophers to
teach them; they don't see philosophy as necessary, as you do, to your credit. There are very few
jobs for philosophers, and they are not in industry nor in public high schools. Not as philosophers.
Second, what would happen, do you think, if a philosopher, teaching in a lower-level school, would
start explicitly teaching ethics? They'd be thrown out by a pack of indignant parents and educators,
wouldn't they. Especially if they taught anything resembling modern, humanist ethics. We don't live in
a secular society, not here in the States, at any rate. Just look at what's happened with teaching
evolution, which has so much evidence backing it up that... well. I won't even go there.
Now in answer to your last question, yes, there are, believe it or not, many resources. First, there is
'philosophical counseling', a movement which started in Europe and has spread to this continent... but
it's for individuals who see themselves as needing a particular kind of therapy, and it's expensive. As
it should be. Philosophers are highly trained and educated; shouldn't their skills cost as much as, say,
engineers or physicians or psychiatrists? Information about that can be found at the American Society
for Philosophical Counseling: http://www.aspcp.org/.
But in fact there are also low-cost alternatives. There are is Cafe Philosophy:
http://philosophy-shop.com/cafeinfo.html. There is the Philosophical Cafe: http://www.parapsi.com/.
There is the Society for Philosophical Inquiry: http://www.philosopher.org/. And there is this site.
These people would be ecstatic at being invited to give seminars in businesses. Guess how many
they've been asked to give? None, that I know of. I guess it's because they haven't taken out ads in
the NY Times, etc... but those cost money, don't they. And that brings us back, in any case, to the
usefulness of one or two seminars... pretty minimal, I'd say. No. We're talking about major alterations
in educational theory, principles, and financing here. The only societies that I know of that incorporate
ethics, and I should put quotes around that term in this context, into the schooling of their young
children are... yes, you've guessed it: the religious societies. Now, would you call the teaching of
fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism, fundamentalist Hinduism,
and so forth, the same as the teaching of ethics? I wouldn't. But that seems to be what people
conceive of as ethical teaching, doesn't it. So the upshot, then, seems to be that we philosophers
have failed in our mission to radically alter societies from religious to secular and to incorporate
humanist educational principles into high schools... OK... you figure out how to do it.
Steven Ravett Brown