Business As a Humanity (The Ruffin Series in Business by Thomas Donaldson, R. Edward Freeman

By Thomas Donaldson, R. Edward Freeman

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What the universities are prepared to teach may not be what is expected or demanded. Breadth and vision are comparable to virtue. Can they be taught, or can we at best cultivate potentialities in individual students in whom the sensitivity to such issues already exists and who require only that we nurture what is already there? These people are probably the real leaders, and business schools should nourish, not snuff out, their potential. A. program in a university? Business does a great deal of on-the-job training.

It will not make the vicious virtuous. But teaching moral theory and method to those who seek virtue can help make them morally articulate. And that is its justification. After each business scandal we hear cries for ethics to be taught in the business schools. What the cries seem to be really calling for is virtuous people, not necessarily people skilled in ethical theory. What the business schools can produce is the latter, and the two should not be confused. Nonetheless, unless virtuous people are morally articulate, their voices will not be adequately heard in the marketplace.

As vehicles, however, these subjects can be well used to teach management or administration as activities that involve people and as fields of study that need not only social scientific approaches but humanistic approaches as well—or instead. If we look at how the business faculty develops, we find that it often includes people trained in the social sciences, who then develop courses that apply their knowledge of sociology or psychology or anthropology. One step in the change toward a humanistic business curriculum is to hire those trained in humanities disciplines.

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