Geoffrey Klempner

Thursday 5th


Is Business Ethics Possible?


‘What is truth?’ is an age-old question of metaphysics. It is also a pre-eminently practical problem. Have you ever had that feeling that you've received so much conflicting advice, you don't know what the truth is any more? What did you do? Spin a coin? Go with your gut feeling? What has gut feeling got to do with truth?

What is the difference, if any, between a judgement of business fact, and a judgement of value? Or are all truths, all facts, just ‘interpretations’ as Nietzsche held? ‘Business is war, and in war truth is the first casualty.’ -- Is that true? What is the value of truthfulness? What's the difference, if any, between a lie and a bluff, or spin, or bull? Are there limits to how ‘economical’ you can be with the truth, or how far truth will stretch before it becomes falsehood? My aim is to make you feel the problem of truth as it applies to your working life in the business arena. To show you yourselves from an external vantage point - the point of view of philosophy - from which you might gain a measure of objectivity. If you go away puzzled and perplexed, and determined to learn more then I will have succeeded in my aim. As Socrates said, knowing that you don't know can be the most valuable knowledge of all.


Dr. Geoffrey Klempner gained his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and published Naive Metaphysics: a theory of subjective and objective worlds. Forsaking the ivory towers of academia he started an online school, Pathways to Philosophy, which has attracted students from over 70 countries. He founded the International Society for Philosophers and the electronic journals Philosophy Pathways and Philosophy for Business. Over the last 10 years he has given presentations and written articles on business ethics and the philosophy of business. Trained in the methods of analytic philosophy, he believes that business ethicists are too often seen as merely purveyors of wise advice, while their true role is to dig beneath surface appearances to the foundations of the business world, to challenge ideologies and ask the difficult questions.