The lack of philosophical understanding in management

The study of philosophy provides a manager with the ability to argue effectively and with the ability to see the world through many perspectives.


Managers in today’s organisations lack the ability to effectively make decisions.  Decision-making is the crux of a manager’s function. However, many managers are legitimised into these roles not for their skills in making decisions but purely based on performance or popularity. The rise of the post-modernist has resulted in the expression of feelings as the tool for argument for which there is no place for criticism. The old time dynamic of rational discourse has deteriorated and given way to notions that avoid confrontation for fear of offending a colleague.


Managers are paid to argue, to question, to disagree, to logically come to a conclusion based on premises that can in turn be challenged. The lack of these critical elements leaves us with the familiar picture of a boardroom of sycophants. Subsequently, decisions made in this environment are less than satisfactory. The role of the manager is at risk of being reduced to a mere shadow of what once was one of a critical thinker.


Socrates encouraged the use of language to argue and sought the truth to things through breaking down thoughts and opinions to the words used to describe them. He emphasized on the importance of understanding the exact meaning of the words we are using so that we can articulate our thoughts precisely. Today’s lack of precision in the use of language has lead to a loss of clarity in our communication. Hence, if truth these days are subjective, decision-making is now merely an act of guesswork.


The understanding of the importance of the assumptions we have on every decision we make is critical in management. The assumptions that an individual brings to the organisation combined with those from the mission of the firm and the limitations of these assumptions are an important element to understand. It is important because we must have a grasp of where things are in relation to each other and how different perspectives can interpret these relations. These perspectives are derived from classic philosophical views such as Aristotle, Plato and Machiavelli. Philosophy provides the ability to see a single circumstance through a number of different lenses, each one with benefits and limitations. A manager equipped with such knowledge understands the motivations and processes of an organisation’s environment and can decide on what perspective best suits particular situations.


The above flaws in the system can be slowly eliminated through the study of philosophy. This education, rather than training, provides insight into the foundation of argument. The understanding of language and how it has evolved and deteriorated in modern society provides sensitivity to language and ways to think rationally. The wide range of perspectives that are available to a manager from the study of philosophy will provide them with a firm foundation with which to make effective decisions.