DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN
THE QUEST FOR ARETE IN THE NEW CORPORATION
Philosophy for Business, 33, October 11, 2006
SEAN D. JASSO, Ph.D.
In my field research for this project as well as my role as a faculty member in a graduate school of
business, and my ongoing academic interests in the study of the corporation, I have found that
ethics even amidst the Sarbanes-Oxley era is lukewarm in the overall perception of students and
practitioners who live among the influences of government, business, and society.
As anyone in
the securities and public corporation industry would attest,
is indeed a hot topic in
the boardroom, the new employee orientation, the MBA program, and in the language of a firm’s
One of the driving forces of my research has been to address what I see as a
paradox between all of the fuss about business ethics and what in fact the practitioners of ethics
(that is, the employees, directors, and owners) of the firm are actually doing to exhibit behavior
that is in fact ethical.
This article focuses on the following question:
here are human excellence, goodness, and
justice in the corporation?
First, I look to Aristotle and his
doctrine of the mean
theoretical framework for strengthening the modern necessity of exhibiting good behavior not only
in the corporation, but in society at large.
Second, I use Aristotle’s ethics to build my own model
to begin a debate as to how corporations can flourish not just profitably, but for life’s ultimate
meaning– excellence and the good life.
ON ARISTOTLE’S THEORY OF ETHICS:
Roots, Perspectives and the Virtues
Why Be Good?
Why not his teacher Plato or his teacher Socrates?
Each of these men helped
shape modern civilization by introducing their students to the methodology of deep, intellectual
inquiry – on existence, on politics, on commerce, on love, on life.
Aristotle’s approach to the
questions of meaning was not only written down by himself, and potentially by Aristotle’s son
Nicomachus, a unique and time-consuming skill in his or anyone’s time, but the instructive
approach, or the scientific method per se, is attributed to him.
This article examines the roots of
how the quest for meaning in life can play a role in the quest for meaning in the corporation.
Looking to the literature on Aristotle, his writings and the criticisms of his philosophy, the shelves
are long and tall, filled with hundreds of years of published discussion.
For example, according to
Seth, who writes on ethics as a method of discovery, “Aristotle, the father of science, clearly
distinguished ethics as the science of the Good (for man)…whose task was the investigation of
the universe itself” (1897, p. 275).
On meaning, Seth continues describing “the moral being [as]
always judging the moral evolution, and there is an evolution of moral judgment as well as of the
conduct which is judged” (1897, p. 280).
And finally, Seth helps frame the objective of the ethical