Dr, Theodore Scaltsas is professor of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh
Mr Owen Kelly, OBE, Director of Engagement, Business School
Ms Shannon Chen, Postgraduate Researcher, Philosophy
University of Edinburgh, Scoltland
Everybody wants to put more accountability into business; but this seems much easier said than done. For example, David Rock summarizes three different attempts to introduce values in corporate personnel behavior, and laments their lack of success by attributing the shortcomings to the innate complexity, if not irrationality, of human decision making (‘The Business of Values’). We take a more upbeat stance on human nature here, believing that society and its institutions can be guided by values – there is ample evidence of this among developing and developed cultures, and we do not think there is anything making us unfit for it.
Is, then, our current, less-than-ethical corporate behaviour a riddle that defies explanation? If we are capable of value-guided behaviour, why don’t we practice it in corporate environments? We believe there is an explanation for this. Personal and social values are built into our character, as Aristotle explained; they are acquired by training and habituation in early age, and exhibit themselves in our dispositions to feel, to decide, and to act in accordance with them. This is what Binta Niambi Brown discovered, when she felt impelled to disclose to her client crucial information that emerged just as the deal was being struck; “Even if the deal had been blown up for good, honest reasons rooted in decent integrity and morality” disposed her to reveal the information.