Why do managers need philosophy?
Dr. Klaus-Jürgen explains why philosophical knowledge is very important and why he gives lectures for managers
Connecting language and the thinking process
Nearly a hundred years ago Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world”. [Translators’ note: The quotation was originally in German (although Wittgenstein spent some time at Cambridge University). This is the standard translation. The word “Grenzen” means “limits” or “borders” or “boundaries”. The word “Sprache” means “language” or “speech”. So which senses are meant here? This perhaps shows what he meant]. In the age of globalization, the world has hardly any limits left. How but how is it with our language?
Our language falls far short of the requirement to remove borders (limits?). It is reminiscent of prehistoric behavior and often barely good enough to give orders, pass on information, express positive or negative sentiments. Which of us has an unused language that enables him to say precisely what he thinks? Where are the words that carry ideas? Which words are worth thinking? On the other hand, how often are we confronted with inane thoughtless talk?
We often leave it to chance whether the link between thinking and talking is a success. Also, our knowledge of methods according to which ideas are developed is still limited. Many of us cannot even concentrate long enough to get the meaning of a complex string of thoughts. What does it mean to differentiate between a strong and a weak argument? Can you easily see when a theory has been refuted?
Reading philosophical books, we often get the impression that the authors write about unrealistic worlds that have nothing in common with real life. This is a false impression. The academic language that is often seen to be surreal is not the manifestation of another world. Rather, it is the distorted image of the real world we live in. Reality is what has actually lost contact to life, behavior and thought. By defining his identity through receiving and sending information, modern man says that he himself is part of the information system. But because man is not a link in a pure information exchange system, his experience is that of being an alien in a world the preservation of which he himself promotes.
However, the concept that saw thinking, talking and behavior as taking equal shares in a job is an antiquated one. The fact that we still have university departments dedicated exclusively to thinking is just as much a remainder of antiquated production processes as the idea that thinking and talking in a precise manner might be detrimental to economical success. If you can express innovative ideas in a precise way using fresh language, you will be able to gain economical advantages in the market. Moreover, experience teaches us that people enjoy freeing the form and content of their language from the discrepancies inherent in their own humanity.
Many people are often misinterpreted because there is a discrepancy between what they say, think and do. However, our language transports behavioral patterns. A child starting to build wooden toy towers experiences the same happiness when building grammatically correct sentences. Building something manually is accompanied by building something linguistically. Talking, thinking and acting benefit a great deal from each other.
What is right and what is wrong
Who knows better than the decision makers in a company: the number of decisions rationally made is small. Mostly, we decide “from the pit of the stomach”. Neurologists also tell us that the more important we think a decision is, the less likely we are to be rational about it.
Does that mean that we should forget rationality when having to make a decision? Not at all! Practice-oriented philosophy alone can make the connection between “brains” and “stomach” work well. After all, the “stomach decision”, too, is based on brainwork. But since we are not aware of how the brain reaches it, we get the impression that there were no brains involved.
For a stress-free treatment of problems and the decision making process, it is helpful to know the mechanisms of gaining experience. According to what criteria do you distinguish between right and wrong? When in doubt, do you have a mechanism for correct inference? Which criteria of truth are your own habits based on and which criteria do they clash with?
In a time of terror, Sigmund Freud stated that any harm done to our “all-powerful and self-glorifying ego” is basically a capital crime. It “will commit murder even for small reasons”, was his opinion. This assumption is backed up by modern neurological research. Our ego is composed of very different perception levels. Its sole purpose is to choose from all perception so that there is a stable entity. Out of fragments of reality, it fabricates a plausible entity. Only things in harmony with this concept are accepted as reality, everything else is vehemently denied
Nothing is more detrimental to innovation than the fearful adherence to familiar concepts. But every deviation from a stable concept of the world is painful. We can only turn the advantages of openness towards innovation into success if we have learned to feel joy about the creation of something new. After all, the strongest force of progress is contradiction. But contradiction is exactly what our self-esteem is liable to classify as an unfriendly attack. Instead of seeking contradiction, we mostly just promote what is familiar, along with adapting everything to our prejudices. How can we achieve a fearless treatment and concept of a world which does not easily adhere to the established perception? How to use contradiction to our advantage?
The word ethics is one of the magic words of this era. As long as we do not ask ourselves what it means, we already think we know its meaning. However, ethics is the best test of whether we can make out the difference between mere verbal emptiness and meaningful talking. Where did ethics originate and why can we not do without it? The answer to this partly depends on the cultural climate you grew up in and are living in. Ethics generates a feeling of goodness in us, which makes it necessary to be critically conscious about it. Whenever something makes us feel good, we have to be aware of the risk that the good feeling is just used as a carrier for something less good that might be camouflaged behind it.
If we take a look at the different arguments in favor of ethics, we can easily see that they are at the same time offering to be guardians trying to tell us what is good for us. Can you always determine what the requirements linked with the legitimacy of ethics are about? Are you aware of what your own concept of ethical consciousness is based on?
A philosophy for leaders remains true to the concept of enlightenment. It is the common characteristics of all enlightened thinking that the contents of awareness are not spontaneously accepted for what they want to be. When we see a sunset, this does not necessarily mean that this concept is true. After all, it is quite possible that there is no sunset and we are just deducing the movement of the sun around the earth from individual perceptions. It is significant in terms of progress in our enlightened consciousness that a few hundred years ago people were still killed because they would not believe that the sun moves around the earth and the earth is the centre of the universe.
But we modern people, too, still fall victim to our consciousness demanding to understand content uncritically in the way it is represented. 140 years ago, Karl Marx said that the more miserable the working conditions of a laborer, the more glorious he imagines paradise. However, we do not really understand the laborer when we follow his information about what his consciousness tells him and talk about the glory of paradise. We understand a lot better if we ask ourselves how a person’s consciousness has developed from his or her economical reality. What mostly defines the consciousness of people is their existence.