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The mind meat of business ethics: Hopefully food for thought Søren Wenstøp – November 2012 BI Center for Climate Strategy.

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Presentation on theme: "The mind meat of business ethics: Hopefully food for thought Søren Wenstøp – November 2012 BI Center for Climate Strategy."— Presentation transcript:

1 The mind meat of business ethics: Hopefully food for thought Søren Wenstøp – November 2012 BI Center for Climate Strategy

2 Business as a meeting place  Where minds meet on a truely inter- disciplinary arena.  A marketplace for ideas, where what works sells at a primium.  Hopes and fears, risks and opportunities

3 The beehives of science

4 My aim:  Interdisciplinary integration!

5 Basic scientific outlook Beliefs in contiuous need of justification: Coherence  The need to conform across Correspondence  The need to conform to evidence

6 A moral outlook Beliefs about what is  Necessary but insufficient On the other side of Hume’s dictum: Values about what ought to be (desires, wishes, hopes, fears,...)

7 Ethics and business Business is intrinsically relational and within the domain of morality or ethics. Practical ethics is also (in a wider or tigher sense) relational. Central ethical notions such as ‘ought’ bear a kinship with our dealings in business. (Etymologically ‘ought’ and ‘ought to’ comes from ‘owed to’). Business and ethics both concern how we act, interact, and transact socially. 

8 Stepping back: Meta-ethics (Meta-ethics  Normative ethics) Is there normativity? What is normativity? Where does is come from?

9 Meta-ethical questions as scientific questions 1 Is there normativity? What is normativity? Where does is come from?

10 Meta-ethical questions as scientific questions 2 Is there normativity?  Yes What is normativity?  Affect-based, affect-infused deliberation  Emotions, feelings, volitions, intentions Where does is come from?  The brain

11 Lines of objection (Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience) PhilosophyPsychologyNeuroscience Behaviorism Cognitivism Affect theory Paradigmatic monopolization Battle across disciplines Behaviorism tends to reject cognitivism and affect theory Cognititvism tends to reject behaviorism and affect theory 50’ 60’ 70’ 80’ 90’ 00’ 00’ 10’ ?

12 Objections to affect Explicit claims and implicit positions: (1)Affect does not exist (2)Affect cannot be studied scientifically (3)Affect is not important or relevant

13 The scientific pecking order Behaviorism Cognitivism Affect theory

14 The classical behaviorist objection 1 (Psychology) The behaviorist view of the brain / mind:

15 The classical behaviorist objection 2 (Psychology) Talking about the mind = ‘mentalism’. The brain is ‘a black box’ (Skinner, 1938) Unconditioned stimulus and unconditioned response The law of conditioning & the law of extinction No way to study the nature of the mind scientifically Affect is a mental notion, and mental notions are mere fictions

16 ‘The cognitive revolution’ (Psychology, neurocience) Talking about the mind is again legitimate Talking about the brain is again legitimate Talking about cognition is great However, talking about emotions is still suspect... unless it can be re-conceptualized as a form of congition! ‘Hot cognitions’ (Abelson, 1963)

17 ‘Cognitive imperialism’ (Psychology) Tomkins (1963) alerted us to ‘cognitive imperialism’; the imperialistic tendicies of ‘cognitive psychology’, and its detrimental effect for a correct understanding of affect.

18 Classical philosophical objection 1 (Philosophy) ‘The open question argument’ (Moore, 1903):  O is X,Y,Z... but is it good (or bad)?  A meaningful question, but with a reply: Yes/No  Naturalism  Positive affects are good / negative affects bad.

19 Classical philosophical objection 2 (Philosophy) ‘The naturalist fallacy’ (Moore, 1903):  Deriving something natural from something non- natural  This is not really so  Reversely: Something non-natural projected from something natural. Normativity rooted in reality.  Moore’s solution: Unanalyzable, non-natural properties amounts to unexplainable mysticism.

20 Where do oughts come from? ?

21 Projectivism  ‘Oughts’ are internal

22 The emotion brain (The ‘mind meat’ of business ethics) The basis of emotions and affect is sub- cortical (Panksepp, 1998).

23 Layered emotional systems (Paksepp & Biven, 2012) Care Play Joy Fear Rage Lust Seeking Cognition 7 distinct ancient (sub-cortical) emotional systems, which we share with all other mammals. Highly developped cortexial functions are disticticely human.

24 Cognition and affect

25 The extended libic system

26 The individual as social-relational Care

27 The care system’s multiple potensialities Care Roles Relations

28 Business professionalism (A very rough analysis) Care Role (professional) Business Relations Seeking Success (profit)

29 Relational business ethics (Acceptance with worries attached) We are to a considerable extent guided by and also limited by our relational emotional capacities. Within-relational ethics leaves us with problems of relational-external costs (relational externalities). Rent-seeking behavior, in particular, seems to be an especially strong relational glue. It can blind us to wider social consequences. Example: Human-induced climate change. Can we and should expand the relational circles; at what relational-internal sacrifice? What would this mean for business?

30 Thank you! Contact information:


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