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Reactionary Essay to If Aristotle Ran General Motors, by Tom Morris

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Essay title: Reactionary Essay to If Aristotle Ran General Motors, by Tom Morris


In the book, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, Tom Morris argues that the teachings of the ancients can and should be applied to today's corporation. His message is that the four virtues - truth, beauty, goodness, and unity - form the foundation of human excellence. Putting them into practice leads not only to self-fulfillment, but ultimately to an open, nurturing, and ethical workplace that is more productive and successful in the long-term. The purpose of this essay is to examine how Morris treats the system of ethics in relation to these four virtues.

Ethics and Big Business

It's difficult not to be cynical about how “big business” treats the subject of ethics in today's world. In many corporations, where the only important value is the bottom line, most executives merely give lip service to living and operating their corporations ethically.

Morris defines morality as that aspect of our nature which strives for goodness, and he stresses that most people have misunderstood this dimension of human life. After searching through miles and miles of quotations, Morris came to the conclusion that most people's attitudes about ethics and morality were basically negative. That is, that morality was somehow put into place in order to prevent us from really enjoying life. They look at ethics as a restrictive form of social control. Morris believes that until we untangle ourselves from this illusion, “we will not appreciate one of the most important foundations for positive corporate spirit and sustainable success” (Morris p. 116).

The Basic Question

The “What's in it for me?” mindset that so many people live with in today's world can appear to be a selfish question. Morris believes that it's anything but selfish. He thinks that it's the question of a very “prudent” nature. At first, I balked at this idea, prone that I am to cut people off at the knees. However, after reading further, I concluded that Morris' statement has a great deal of merit. He infers that this type of query is actually involved with “self-interest, which is not the same thing as selfishness” (Morris p. 117). Asking this type of question can really mean that we are looking at the effect something might have on our immediate or long-term personal fulfillment, financial security, etc. Doing the right thing is not always going to affect us in some positive way immediately. In fact, we could suffer short-term negative effects by electing to do the right thing. But the long-term benefits to our personal fulfillment will nearly always be positive, because doing the right thing brings blessings from the Lord. God honors right living.

Exhibiting spiritual health by behaving morally and ethically in all our dealings (both personal and in business), injects harmony into our lives. Morris believes that harmony is at the heart of ethics. Spiritually healthy people create socially harmonious relationships just by the very act of doing the right thing.

My grandmother taught me that “there is no excuse for bad manners,” and I have taken this little piece of wisdom with me throughout life. People in today's world seem to have thrown away manners and have forgotten that common decency, basic kindness, concern, respect and courtesy can not only open doors of opportunity, it literally defines their character. Ethics and morality is not just about big things – it's about the small things: the details of life. Morris calls this the “conditions under which people can be their best and do their best” (Morris p. 122). Treating people with kindness and respect is at the heart of proper business management.

I have worked in companies where employees are treated like cow ponies and are only useful for “culling” customers from the herd of the world's people. I have also worked for organizations where employees are treated as valued members of a large corporate “family,” and I must prefer the latter. Putting it simply, I perform better under the those conditions, and I believe that this is probably true for most of us. It's important that employees feel as important and valued as most companies value their customers. In organizations where this is the normal atmosphere, employees develop and grow like seedlings placed in good soil and watered well.

Facing Challenges and Creating Karma

Corporations face many pressures in the challenge of acting ethically and morally in the business world, and we face much of the same pressures in our personal lives. Competition is tough in today's world, and it is all too tempting to “pad” the sales talk

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