By John von Heyking, October 13, 2010 in Professional Development, What is Education?
Read Part One here.
The lesson about the moral economy that Alberta energy producers are only now learning is one applicable to all businesses. The business economy exists within a moral economy. A businessperson illiterate in moral language will be defenseless against moral opposition to his product. Exposure to at least some of the great moral thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, and Mill helps him participate in the moral economy that sustains his business economy.
An understanding of things done for the sake of something else, or for their own sake, or an understanding of the virtue of moderation and justice, is crucial to everyday life, including the life of a businessperson. How should we understand the moral status of things that are both beneficial and harmful? What does “benefit” and “harm” mean? At what point does “harm” become too much? To whom? To society as a whole? Should the harm done to a single individual outweigh benefits to an entire society, or vice-versa?
An exposure deeper than what one usually gets in “business ethics” (which is usually taught be someone with visceral hatred of capitalism, and is therefore quickly forgotten after the course is finished) is needed. I do not suggest moral philosophy can be reduced to marketing. I am claiming quite the opposite, in fact. Illiteracy in moral philosophy on the part of our business (and government) class leads people to think moral philosophy can be reduced to marketing.
Our society tends to regard the university professor of liberal education as parasitic to the wealth creation of the laborer and CEO. This false view neglects the moral economy in which each of them participates, and to which each adds his own unique value.