Showing posts with label philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label philosophy. Show all posts

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Nature of Values and Authority-Beyond Metrics

Authority is accompanied  with power, and this can be an irresistible aphrodisiac. It is so intoxicating that people continually seek to gain higher levels of authority through wealth, social position, and power accumulation. Positions of power should come with responsibility, and those who do not have the right kind of values should not be entrusted to direct others. People in power positions set the standards for others and can have an enormous impact on acceptable behaviors among their charges.

A study focusing on disengagement theory found that managers who pushed others to engage in misreporting had a direct impact on the moral performance of their subordinates (Mayhew & Murphy, 2014). Supervisor requests were met with willing subordinates who misreported more, rationalized their unethical behavior and didn't feel that bad about it.

Immoral bosses changed the perspective of their subordinates to the point where they no longer could have any remorse. As unethical behavior becomes embedded into the organizational culture, it creates expectations. For those who “play by the rules,” it can seem like an unfair disadvantage.

Performance metrics becomes to define the individual. Companies that do not concern themselves with how these metrics were achieved will find themselves engage in more immoral activities. Whether the metric is associated with sales or production, the result should include an expectation of ethical behavior in its achievement.

All organizations, whether public or private, should seek to recruit and develop authority figures with moral sentiments. When tough decisions need to be made it is those with an internal moral compass who can make the right choices while those who are self-seeking and need external gratification will be more likely to support unethical behavior. The values of the authority figure will soon spread to their subordinates and create a new way competing.

Mayhew, B. & Murphy, P. (2014). The impact of authority on reporting behavior, rationalization and affect. Contemporary Accounting Research, 31 (2).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Streets of Gold or Pathways to Poverty: Reviving America's Cities

Streets of gold look a little more like pathways to poverty. American cities have been on the decline for decades as investments diverted from urban areas to emerging countries that rolled out the red carpet. The infrastructure that was built when American cities were at the height of their economic might is still mostly intact waiting for visionary investors. Getting investment interest and better city governance can lead to mutual growth for business and job-hungry residents if the two can come to a mutual understanding.

Pick any major city in the country and follow its historic rise and fall. You may notice that as people moved to the city, built homes, and invested their resources these collections of people grew in wealth and influence. The collective action of small and large investors created a synergy of growth that pushed profit margins to higher levels. Money, government, and people had a mutual self-interest in development.

As international competition rose, technology changed, and poor government policy stagnated these cities; they became ghost lands that are a pale comparison to their previous glory. Where opportunity flourished a few decades ago, some cities have grown dilapidated virtual prisons. The poorer a family was, the more likely they were stuck in a cycle of poverty. American men, women, and children were left behind.

Bleakness doesn’t need to be the norm. Cities that still retain their basic infrastructure are ripe for renewed development that not only produces higher returns on investment (ROI) but offers new opportunities for residents. When opportunity grows, hope also grows, and new economic life is born with it. The marriage of investors and government  into pro-growth policies can nurse new opportunities.

Consider the mass investment draws to places like Eastern Europe, India, China, and other emerging nations where red tape restrictions are little but returns are high. American cities offer many of these same opportunities as the low cost of buildings, motivated work force, and reliable infrastructure found in combinations will grow once the right capital levers are applied.

Stakeholders will need to look at the global market and existing local competencies to determine where the best investment growth potential can be realized. When capitalists engage in pack investments and create spawning clusters of business activities to capitalize on existing competencies and infrastructure, growth is not far over the horizon. Economic wastelands can become investment wonderlands with a little good old fashion spit shine.

Many proposals such as new recreation centers, additional funding, tax allocations, etc...have been tried at one time or another. They were short-lived because they were not profitable and often came with long-term commitments with difficult to measure results. Building investment hubs fixes the foundations of poverty that lead to better housing, additional tax bases, better education and more community support.

The problem isn’t so much that investors are not willing to invest in these cities but that awareness is lacking, and local government is often short-sighted in their policy development that inadvertently restricts future opportunities. Revamping the way we think about investments, government, and education/training helps to ensure that struggling cities look more like diamonds in the rough. Enlightened government starts where partisan politics ends.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Using the Philosophical Principles Conscious, Subconscious, and Intentionality in Management

We can learn a lot from philosophy and apply that to management in much the same way as we can learn from psychology, anatomy, or economics and use those principles within the workplace. I have the pleasure of engaging in a philosophy group that focuses on understanding key concepts of philosophy and finding practical uses for philosophical principles within our lives. The principles of philosophy can be used to create greater management skill and understanding of human behavior.

The subconscious influences a wide variety of daily behaviors without us even knowing it. The philosophical group moved from discussions of the conscious last week to the subconscious this week. The debate included concepts such as the need for the subconscious, nature of the subconscious, and intentionality. There are three reasons why as business professor I would be interested in the conscious, subconscious and intentionality.

Philosophy as a Platform:

Philosophy is pre-science that leads to greater discoveries about life and human nature. Philosophy first generates a mental conception of an idea and science tests it. Old ideas that don’t have a solid empirical footing eventually die off while new ideas emerge that better explain the nature of events. We must first think it before we can test it and use it. 

In the world of business, innovation is an important part of growing new products and services. The nature of philosophy helps business theorists understand human motivation, nature of life, and the process of creativity. Philosophy provides a broad framework in which details are drawn into through experience and empirical evidence. 

 The Nature of the Subconscious:  

Originally developed by psychologist Pierre Janet, the subconscious is seen as something under the layers of our conscious thought and generally out of our awareness. It is a little like dropping down a well where it becomes difficult to see even though you can feel the coolness of the water.  You may grab a hazy object and come to the surface whereby the sunlight (awareness) allows us to analyze the object.

The subconscious can be seen as a wild animal darting about irrationally where the conscious reins it in much like a rein on a horse. The subconscious can alternatively be seen as a goal directed truest sense of self where the conscious doesn’t control urges but finds the most advantageous places to allow those urges to fulfill themselves appropriately. The later argument is stronger than the first in terms of appreciating the “whole person” as an integrated entity. 

The Purpose of the Subconscious

The subconscious has a powerful calculating component that works in the background of our conscious life. If we tried to pay attention to everything that happens in our life we would overwhelm our senses and abilities. It wouldn’t be long before we found ourselves exhausted and confused. The subconscious does all that work for us. 

The subconscious is a survival system that pushes for certain urges and needs. Its thoughts and desires bubble up from the depths of the mind and when we are aware put into our conscious mind. Those connected to their subconscious can also tap into creativity and problem solving abilities for sport or survival. 


Discussed in the 19th Century by philosopher Franz Brentano and tries to explain concepts as they relate to a goal directed mind. Our mind is fed by our sense and creates images and impressions. Because we have these images and impressions and they are different from the physical existence of these properties means we have intentionality of the mind. 

Intentionality is a little confusing as they relate to how we feel about particular objects, ideas, and concepts but they do not have to exist in front of us at the time. If we think about something we like (i.e. ice cream) we will naturally create an impression of that ice cream in our mind and have certain feelings and thoughts related to it. We are thus displaying intentionality. 

Together we can find that intentionality and conscious work together. As information bubbles from our subconscious to our conscious it takes on a level of intentionality. The feelings, impressions and images may be in our subconscious but as soon as we are aware of them they have some goal directed properties. We have emotions, feelings and impressions that lead us down certain behavioral paths. 

If we think of the multitudes of people within any workplace in America, or the world, we will find that activities are definitely goal oriented. The reasons why a person comes to work and shuffles papers everyday has obvious advantages. The way in which a person feels and thinks about these things is more difficult to understand and could have subconscious roots. Understanding human nature helps in better managing people and motivating them to a higher degree of performance.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

The State of Consciousness: Meeting the Philosophers of Artificial Intelligence

Consciousness is our state of awareness and has been debated among theologians for a long time. John Locke discussed consciousness as perception that passes through the mind while Rene Descartes followed Cartesian Dualism when pondering the differences between physical and mental matter. No one has every truly defined, empirically broke down, or proven the existence of consciousness. I had the pleasure of meeting a group of philosophers to discuss the nature of consciousness in today’s world.

Of course I am not talking about sandal wearing theologians coming out from some past century to share their Socratic wisdom. Instead of unemployed philosophers the group was made of psychologists, computer engineers, and even a mathematician. They are an eclectic crew that ranged from individuals who wore t-shirts with formulas to those with proper business attire. Each attended with their own interest in the topic from a professional and hobbyist point of view.

The meeting was fast paced and gave each person just a little time to discuss their understanding and knowledge of the topics. Participants discussed the nature of consciousness, difference between mind and consciousness and its application to artificial intelligence.  The knowledge contained within this group of enthusiast far surpassed that which you will find on the street.

What is Consciousness?

The group attempted to answer question with a variety of different responses based upon their research and experience. Answers included comments such as outside of self, neuro nature, reflectiveness, greater than parts, universal, life force, subconscious, and awareness of right or wrong. It is a property that has a meaning beyond the individual entity.

Consolidated Definition: Consciousness is neurologically based intelligence and awareness that transcends oneself to greater understanding of the environment.

Mind vs. Conscious:

The beginning of the discussion started with an attempt to understand the difference between mind and consciousness but soon morphed into the hypothetical place where consciousness is first realized. They used terms like environmental adaptability, levels of consciousness, collective awareness, relatedness of mind and consciousness, and evolving into consciousness.

Consolidated Definition: Awareness is an evolving process that purposefully improves survival of oneself and one’s species through greater levels of awareness (knowledge and understanding of self within one's environment.).

Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness:

It is not currently believed that Artificial Intelligence has the ability to create consciousness but is at present stuck in programing and thinking. When machines become aware of their existence, survival, and form a species they will be considered to be living with consciousness and therefore engage in independent goal-directed behavior.  At such time, machines will have a level of “free will” and independence of thought beyond their programmers. This makes them a living species of a different breed and a new developmental trajectory.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Father of Modern Philosophy-Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes contributed and enhanced science as we know it today. He was able to create a shift in the way we view mathematics and how this applies to discovery within the world. His abilities lay in his mental creativity, analytical truth seeking ability, and the desire to understand the world around him. It was the right education mixed with the right circumstances and the right abilities to develop something profound.

Descartes was born in 1596 in the town of La Haye France to a Councilor in Parliament. His father sought to create the best learning environment for his son. In 1637 he published Geometry which was a blend of geometry and algebra to create something knew called Cartesian Geometry. He was also well known for three works entitled Meditations on the First Philosophy, Principles of Philosophy, and Truth in the Sciences.

Known as the The Father of Modern Philosophy he was able to reference a point in space by using two coordinates. This method became used in everything from land coordinates to graphing profits & losses. His great discovery deriving from a fly on the wall that he began to see how its position could be calculated. Taking the edges of the wall he mentally developed a graph of the entire wall to create what is known as X and Y axis in standard charts. 

He also discussed early emotions called Passions of the Soul. This was unique for its time as he moved philosophy into trying to understand human nature from a scientific point of view. It was an early argument of human cognition and separation of mind and body. He describes it as "the perceptions, sensations, or commotions of the soul which we relate particularly to the soul and are caused, maintained, and strengthened by some movement of the spirits." 

The most interesting aspect of Descartes's genius is that he changed science as we know it-a paradigm shift. Instead of Aristotelian logic he changed his whole perception to adjust science to a more mechanistic and mathematical explanation. Quantitative analysis took off. This had a systematic effect on the whole field of study and developed updated approaches to understanding. 

To understand the profound nature of changing perspective think about how a vast majority of us move through life “knowing what we know” because everyone else confirms it for us since childhood. We are like fish in a fish bowl and never know we are actually in water. By digging into the very essence of life and feeling, Descartes was able to adjust his entire vantage point. 

The nature of genius is to make connections that others cannot see. It doesn’t happen overnight but occurs through decades of deep study, reflection, and questioning everything around you. In Descartes case, you one day see a fly on the wall and everything changes. This cannot happen without connecting piece by piece of alternative information that leads up to a previously unknown conclusion. 

The most difficult aspects of a new discovery, is the ability to sell it. In some way it will be necessary to concretely draw out the conclusion, analyze it, and put it in a logical-spatial explanation that others can see. Imagine the difficulty getting someone to agree in basic political or religious arguments and then asking them to question the world around them in a new way-A near impossibility. Each person must come willingly to the conclusion and have the motivation to see the explained pieces for themselves; some will always be in doubt.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers

Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers the Ideas that have Shaped our World by Philip Stokes gives a broad based understanding of the world’s philosophers. Each figure is given a few pages of explanation as well as their relevant contribution to society. One can find a broad sense of understanding as it relates to the overall concept of how philosophy has impacted societal thinking and science. 

Some may wonder what the benefit of philosophy is on society. Without philosophy the basic components of modern understandings would not have been built. For example, if one didn’t wonder if the world was round we may never have traversed the ocean, built spacecraft, or had cell phones. Philosophy is seen as critical thought and human expression and contributes to both world affairs and societal development. 

Philosophy doesn’t fit within a particular category of study like science but is considered the concept formation before modern science. It is the culmination of people who sat and thought about the nature of the world, the nature of government, and the universe we live in. It is those who have dared to ponder our very existence and say profound things like Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

It moves into discussions such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics. To the philosopher pondering how society should be formed, the analysis of arguments and the nature of reality are intertwined with their lives. For example, Pythagoras of Samos (570-480BC) believed that the ultimate nature of reality is a number. To him all things could be deducted down to a number, analyzed, and experimented with. Life is one big formula.

Many modern philosophers are more akin to scientists. Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) discussions the connection between thought and language, “The structure of speech is not simply the mirror image of the structure of thought. …..Therefore, precisely because of the contrasting directions of the movement, the development of the internal and external aspects of speech form a true unity.”  This has led to concepts such as the conceptual schema as impacting the way in which a person perceives the world. In other words, we are a direct result of our social world. 

Philosophers are lovers and creators. They seek to step between the dichotomies of life and determine the glue that holds it all together. They are those who dared to ask the question, “what if” while others tracked down familiar paths. Without philosophy the world would look much the same way as it did thousands of years ago. As Heraclitus (535-473 BC) once stated about the constant changing world, "No man ever steps in the same river twice".

Stokes, P. (2012). Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers-The Ideas that have Shaped the World. London, UK: Arcturus Publishing Limited