Philosophy is Needed in Corporate Boardrooms

It’s not often that you hear CEOs and other executives call for philosophers to be among their boards. In a recent Financial Times article, there is an argument that businesses need philosophers. People who are trained philosophers tend to look root causes and issues that impact whatever it is that they are looking at – something any company should be doing.

The added benefit of having a philosopher in the board room is that their presence can bring a more holistic sense to the company’s (and owners’) place in the world.

Asked to analyse a business, a philosopher would typically start by asking what its deep purpose was: that is, what its eudaimonic promise to its customers was made up of. Then he or she would look at how well the company was living up to the promise, before suggesting new products, services or brand messages that would align it more closely with its implicit promises.

Letting the odd philosopher into a business is not an indulgence. It would help management think more deeply about what a business should properly be trying to do with the customer’s life in order to improve it. There is (fortunately) no enduring conflict between understanding the psyche and making some money.

Read more here.

Thanks Janet!

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Get Help Choosing an Ethical Career

80,000 Hours is a student run organization at Oxford University that helps people find a job or career in something that makes the world better. This is great for so many obvious reasons – but the one I love the most is that it shows how philosophy can be applied in your life everyday.

Do you want to spend 8 (or more) hours a day just earning a couple dollars when you can get paid to make the planet, people, and the world better?

According to the organization’s view of ethics-as-impact, a do-gooder job only “does good” insofar as you are better at it than the person who would have filled the job otherwise. “This is the replaceability factor,” says MacAskill. “The difference between you and the person who would have been in your shoes.” If you’re fully replaceable, you are, quite literally, not making a difference.

Read more at Co.Exist.

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How do We Define Life?

Most of the news that gets covered here is related to new discoveries and good events happening around the world, but sometimes we need to take a step back from those discoveries and think deeper about what it all means. Recently NASA launched its most ambitious mission to Mars and they hope to find evidence of life.

But what is life?

Philosophers for hundreds of years have tried to answer this question and depending on who you ask we are closer or no closer than we were when humanity first asked such a question. Some people rely on old writings or established mythos for defining life, but those generally don’t old up when looking for something truly alien to us. Which leads us to something relatively new to the world of science and that is figuring out a sound and comprehensive definition for life for the purposes of scientific research.

Defining life poses a challenge that’s downright philosophical. There’s no ambiguity in looking for water, because we have a clear definition of it. That definition is the same whether you’re on Earth, on Mars, or in intergalactic space. It is the same whether you’re dealing with water as ice, liquid, or vapor. But there is no definition of life that’s universally agreed upon. When Portland State University biologist Radu Popa was working on a book about defining life, he decided to count up all the definitions that scientists have published in books and scientific journals. Some scientists define life as something capable of metabolism. Others make the capacity to evolve the key distinction. Popa gave up counting after about 300 definitions.

Things haven’t gotten much better in the years since Popa published Between Necessity and Probability: Searching for the Definition and Origin of Life in 2004. Scientists have unveiled even more definitions, yet none of them have been widely embraced. But now Edward Trifonov, a biologist at the University of Haifa in Israel, has come forward with a new attempt at defining life, based on a new strategy. Rather than add on yet another definition to the pile, he’s investigating the language that previous scientists have used when they talk about life.

Edward Trifonov: Life is self-reproduction with variations.

Trifonov acknowledges that each definition of life is different, but there’s an underlying similarity to all of them. “Common sense suggests that, probably, one could arrive to a consensus, if only the authors, some two centuries apart from one another, could be brought together,” he writes in a recent issue of the Journal of Biomolecular Structures and Dynamics (article PDF).

Read the rest of the article here.

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