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The Ethics of

Human Personhood

Sr. Doris DSouza A.C., Ph.D.

Fr. Ozzie Mascarenhas S.J., Ph.D.
JRD Tata Ethics Research Center, XLRI,
The Human Person :
The Foundation of Corporate Ethics
More than at any other period in human history,
humankind is currently at the cross-roads of war or
peace, growth or decline, progress or regress, life or

We cannot leave these opposite polarities and

possibilities to chance. We must design and invent our
future and that of our posterity.

In this regard, the concept of human personhood cum

human dignity and responsibility is a fundamental part
of this new self understanding and undertaking.

Ethics and morality are a critical component on this

creative collective journey of human personhood to
The Human Person:
The Foundation of Corporate Ethics
Corporate ethics requires the
development of a clear understanding of
the relationship between executive
autonomy and freedom, between human
creativity and market innovation, and
between human culture and corporate
social responsibility.

In this chapter we explore two crucial

concepts in this endeavor: the
corporate human: personhood, the
corporate human act and actions
The Structure of this Chapter
We explore the awesome domain of the human
person, the foundation of all ethics, particularly
corporate ethics, under two Parts:

Part I:
The Ethics of Corporate
Human Personhood
Part II:
The Ethics of Corporate
Human Act and Actions
Part I
The Ethics of
Corporate Human
What is Human Personhood?

A proper sequence of questions on the

human person are:

What is a human person?

What is being human?

What is human personhood?

What is corporate human personhood?

A related philosophical and more fundamental

question is: what is human? What is being good?
What is Man?
Aristotles balanced formula or answer to this
question was: man is a rational animal.
Within ancient Greek philosophical thought and
categorization, this definition meant that the
human being is endowed with the highest of three
types of souls:

As a vegetative soul, the human is capable of

nutrition, growth, and reproduction;

As an animal soul, the human is capable of

movement and experiences;

As a rational soul that unites the other two, the

human is capable of knowledge and choice.
What is Human?
Our rational soul expresses itself in the twofold
activity of thinking and willing.

We are even more: our knowledge is reflective (i.e.,

we know that we know) and our choices are
informed and reflective (i.e., we know what we are
choosing, and we know why we are choosing it).

Our skills, our potential for knowledge and choice

empower us to be causes or authors of our own
action, and hence, to be accountable and
responsible for the consequences of our actions.

Thus, being and action are intrinsically linked in

the rational and voluntary nature of our human
What is Being Human?
Corporate ethics and morals deal not only with
executive decisions and actions, but even raise
the more fundamental normative questions such

As a corporate executive, what ought I to do?

As a corporate executive, what ought I to be?

As a corporate executive, what ought I to


Even those who consider basing ethics on a set of

universal and absolute values presuppose the
necessity of the human personhood.
What Constitutes our Human
Our human personhood is a unique
combination of four internal-external forces
that unify, interpret, internalize and
respond to the internal-external stimuli
Our Immanence

Our Individuality

Our Sociality and

Our Transcendence
Our Unique Immanence

Etymologically, immanence (in + manere in Latin)

means to remain in, or to be operating and living within
something. The cosmos lives within us in a unique way.
We are immanent in the world and in the universe.

We were uniquely incarnated in a world and the

universe during a unique combination of time, space,
motion and gravitation.

Our immanence is unique and irrevocable: we were

birthed into this world at the unique interaction of the
sun, stars and zodiacs, earth and planets, moon and the
seasons, time, space, gravitation and motion. Oriental
philosophies (e.g., China, India) have explored this
aspect of our unique immanence.
Our Unique Body Immanence
Needs and limitations, however, do not
define us. There is a unity between our
corporeality and the flesh and blood living
organism that we are.

The body is the way in which the person is;

it is the source of our being in the world.
The body is the foundation for feeling and
the place where feelings are experienced.

It is the home of the intelligence. Without

the body there cannot be a human person.
Our Unique Spirit-Body Immanence
There is a unity between the human person and the
body, but also a distinction.

The body needs a principle to vivify it and provide a

source of unity for the body with its corporeal
function, activities and processes of human nature.

Most religions call this principle of unity the soul

(atman in Sanskrit, pneuma in Greek, anima in

Without the soul as the unifying principle we cannot

be human persons, and without the body we cannot
be human persons either; we need a unique
combination of the two.
Our Unique Individuality
We are a unique combination of body and soul, mind and matter,
the conscious and the unconscious, the physical and the
emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual, and the ethical and
moral parts of our human personality.

Such a unique combination makes knowledge, thought, talent

and skills, choice and freedom possible.

Such a unique process of individuation is not a simple or random

byproduct of our body and genes, or a victim of biological and
economic exigencies of our human world.

All these (including our genes and genetic compositions) will not
determine and control who we are and who we will become.

Nor will our talents and skills, knowledge and thoughts, willed
actions and behaviors totally define us or determine the
outcome of our individuality. They all contribute to our specific
personality and uniqueness called individuality.
Our Unique Individuality
Our unique, non-repeatable, irreducible and irreplaceable
individuality cannot be fully understood and explained
unless we accept that

Our uniqueness comes from being uniquely shaped and

molded into the image of God (or some such superior
being) who made us into this unique and historical
composition (i.e., originated in specific combinations of
space, time, motion and gravitation, body and soul, mind
and matter, family, social and cosmic environments).

We are a unique meeting point between soul and body,

the corporeal and the spiritual, the physical and the
social that we call the human personality or individuality.
Our Unique Sociality

We do not live, move and have our being in isolation. Because of

our unique immanence and individuality we are social creatures,
members of a common human species.

We can sense, feel and manipulate the world around as animals do.
But far more than animals we have knowledge, because the
activity of knowing is dependent upon a deeper reality, that of

Knowledge by its very essence is relational . Psychologists,

philosophers, and sociologists are all in agreement that our
immanence and individuality are inseparable from our sociality.

That is, unless there is another who is like me yet distinct from me,
I can never come to a full understanding of who I am and what I

Our very existence is dependent upon this social quality of human

Our Unique Sociality
Our human nature has evolved in a unique way
such that we can communicate in a special way
with other human beings.

We develop language of signs and symbols, and

all these can only happen within a social nexus.

Language enables us to share and

communicate knowledge with each other.
Language makes interpersonal sharing of
meaning and relationships possible.
Our Unique Transcendence

Etymologically (from Latin ascendere = to climb;

transcendere = to go beyond, to surpass),
transcendence implies going beyond ones sense
and experience, emotions and feelings,
knowledge and skills, capacities and limitations,
in order to achieve excellence, moral integrity,
and extraordinary heights of self-actualization.

In Kantian philosophy, transcendence means

going beyond sense data and hypothetical
imperatives to categorical moral imperatives
inherent in the organizing function of the mind
and the will, and which are necessary conditions
for human knowledge.
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, the freedom fighter who led
the emancipation of South Africa from white
minority rule, who emerged from 27 years in
prison to become South Africas first elected
black president and a global symbol of
reconciliation, died, age 95, on Thursday,
December 5, 2013, at 8:50 pm at his home in
Houghton, Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela struggled against apartheid

for more than half a century. He was a
cofounder and leader of the African National
Congress (ANC).
Tributes to Mandela
President Obama eulogized: He achieved more than could be
expected of any man. I am one of the countless millions who
drew inspiration from Nelson Mandelas life. My very first
political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue
or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: A giant among men has

passed away. This is as much Indias loss as South Africas. He
was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of
eternal inspiration for generations to come.

British Prime Minister David Cameron declared in London: A

great light has gone out in the world.

Russian President Vladimir V Putin added: Mandela was

committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism
and justice.
Nelson sought the
Greater Good
Released from prison in 1990, Mandela negotiated a
peaceful end to the old regime with leaders of South
Africas White minority government.

Three years later in 1993, he was awarded the Nobel

Peace Prize.

He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to

1999, declined a second term, before stepping down
voluntarily, and cheerfully handed over power to an
elected successor, Thabo Mbeki.

Nelson was and became an international emblem of

human dignity and forbearance.
He Forgave; He Loved Peace
When preparing for the Mandela
obituary in 2007, Bill Keller, columnist of
International New York Times, asked
Mandela, After such barbarous torment,
how do you keep hatred in check?

Mandelas answer was almost

dismissive: Hating clouds the mind. It
gets in the way of strategy. Leaders
cannot afford to hate.
Captain Lakshmi Sahgal
Captain Lakshmi Sahgal
A Life of Struggle: Freedom Fighter, Doctor,
Communist, Lakshmi Sahgal dies, 97, July 24, 2012.

She felt the whole freedom struggle had gone wrong.

Partition had been a disaster, and the modern pursuit of
money had ruined all.

Her dream of free women: she hoped to abolish child

marriage, dowries and the ban on remarriage of widows.

She wanted women to have chances like hers: to be

educated, self-supporting if they cared to be, and able to
make their own choices about marriage.

With SC Bose in Singapore she joined the INA, became

Captain, and fought for freedom and womens rights.
Her Achievements
As a young doctor of 26, Lakshmi left for Singapore in 1940. Three years later
she met Subhas Chandra Bose, a meeting that would change the course of her

Captain Lakshmi married Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal, whom she met at
Singapore, a leading figure of the INA, in March 1947. The couple moved from
Lahore to Kanpur.

Here she plunged into medical service for the rest of her life for more than 50

She worked among the flood of refugees who had come from Pakistan, and
earning the trust and gratitude of both Hindus and Muslims.

She was one of the founding members of the All India Democratic Women's
Association (AIDWA), set up by the Party.

She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1998, in recognition for her service to
the nation.

The Left parties nominated her candidacy for the Presidential election in
2002, during which time she said, "My one-point objective would be to
maintain the unity and integrity of this great nation."
Dr. Amar Gopal Bose
BSc, MSc, and PhD from MIT in Electronic Engineering.

He never went into business to make money.

He went into business so that he could do interesting

things that hadnt been done before in acoustic

He always said: Never lose your imagination. Always

dream of things that are better and think about ways
to reach those things.

This is intrinsic motivation.

Amars Philosophy of IM
Bose talked not only about acoustics but about
philosophy, personal behavior, what is important
in life.

He was somebody with extraordinary standards.

He persistently refused to offer stock to the

public so that he could freely pursue risky long-
term research such as noise-cancelling
headphones and innovative suspension systems
for cars, without the pressure of quarterly
earnings and annual financial statements and
What is being a Good Corporate?
Cognitively, the good corporate executive knows
what is good versus evil, right versus wrong, truth
versus falsehood, and fair versus unfair.

Volitively or voluntarily, the good corporate

executive actively strives:

To do what is good and to avoid evil,

To do what is right and to avoid doing wrong,

To speak the truth and to avoid speaking falsehood, and

To do what is fair and just and to avoid what is unfair and

Table 2.1A: Summarizing Potentiality of Human
Human Vegetative Animal Soul Rational Soul
Dimensions Soul
What is Man? Nutrition Movement Knowledge
Biological Growth Sensations Choices
Reproduction Experience Willing

What is Human? Meals Time Management Reflective Thinking

Maturity Talent Nurturing Reflecting choices
Family Skills Management Authoring Choices

What is Being As a vegetative soul: As an animal soul: As a rational soul:

Human? What I ought to do? What I ought to do? What I ought to do?
What I ought to be? What I ought to be? What I ought to be?
What I ought to What I ought to What I ought to become?
become? become?

What is Good Health, safety, Work, society, teams, Knowledge, wisdom,

security, talent, skills, great decisions and
Sports, athletics, programs, projects, choices, peace, harmony,
physical fitness wealth, possessions, happiness

What is Being Natural tendencies Natural tendencies to Natural tendencies to be

Human to be good with be good with self, pursuing the ultimate
environment family, work and good in decisions,
society choices and strategies.

What is being a To do what is To do what is To speak the truth and

How do our Immanence, Sociality, Individuality And Transcendence (ISIT) Ground
Corporate Ethical and Moral Decisions Actions?

Our human immanence as corporate

executives makes our decisions and
strategies, acts, actions and activities
concrete, historical, geographical,
contextual, and hence, uniquely
situational, irreversible, existential, and
accountable for their consequences.

Our human individuality as corporate

executives makes our actions (decisions
and strategies) personal, with obligations
of due ownership of the choices of inputs,
processes and outputs we make .
How do our ISIT Ground Corporate
Ethical and Moral Decisions
Our human sociality as corporate executives
makes our acts and actions (decisions and
strategies) social and society-oriented, with
summons for due diligence of the choices of
inputs, processes and outputs we make.

Our human transcendence as corporate

executives makes our decisions and
strategies, acts, actions, activities, meta-
individual, trans-social and trans-
organizational in relation to the choices of
inputs, processes and outputs we make.
The Static and Dynamic Nature
of the Human Person
We are human persons every moment of our life
and being - this is the fixed nature of human

Yet human personhood means that we go beyond

or transcend what we are at a given moment -
this is the dynamic nature of human personhood.

Both aspects of human personhood are

necessary; they make us what we are human,
personal, ethical, moral, accountable and
responsible persons and personhoods.
The Value and Function of Executive Personhood

Human behavior, however, cannot be reduced to a set of decisions

and actions. There is a profound unity and interrelatedness that
affects four basic characteristics of what it means to be human:

We are uniquely sensitive or sense human beings fed by our five

senses that are nuanced by observation, perception,
internalization and pleasure;

We are affective and feeling human beings empowered and

reinforced by our attitudes, beliefs, instincts and drives, needs
and wants, desires and aspirations, ambitions and dreams;

We are cognitive or knowing human beings with unique

capacities for thinking, reasoning, understanding, explanation,
experimentation, creativity and innovation, imagination and
intuition, judgment and decisions, prediction and control; and

We are volitive, voluntary and intentional human beings who

can deliberate, be determined, use free will, choose, select or
elect among competing courses of actions, subjects, objects,
properties and events.
Ethics of Human Behavior
Ethics is concerned with responsible human behavior.

Business Ethics is concerned with responsible human

behavior in relation to managerial decisions, actions
and their outcomes.

Corporate Ethics is concerned with responsible

human executive behavior in relation to corporate
decisions, actions and their outcomes.

Good Corporate executives execute good decisions

and actions that generate good outcomes, and avoid
bad decisions and actions that result in bad or harmful
The Influence of External Stimuli on the Human Person

Our family and school stimuli : our childhood /adolescent

experiences of our parents, nursery school, siblings,
grandparents and relatives, peers and teachers at middle-
and high- schools, colleges and universities.

Our ergonomic Stimuli : experiences in relation to gainful

work, meaningful work, co-workers and labor unions,
native talent perfected, new skills picked up, and the like.

Our market stimuli : the expanding world of thousands of

brands, products, services, stores, malls, supermarkets,
www, blogs, e-bulletins, Facebook .

Our ideological stimuli : our value-experiences of society,

art and poetry, language and literature, history and
culture, law and order systems, religious institutions, and
political agenda.
The Human Ethical Person in Action
How this mysterious unity or self-attribution is done is still debated.

Various religions attribute this to a superior power in us that some

call the soul, the spirit, the mind, the atman, the transcendent, the
immanent, or the divine in us.

Others trace this power to our genes and chromosomes, or the

mysterious neural-physical body that we are endowed and
engineered with.

It is because of this unity that we say: I feel, I speak, I did this, and
not that our body feels, body speaks or that our body does

More importantly, we say: I own certain actions and their

consequences, and hence we assert: I did this, I chose this, I am
accountable for this choice and the deed that follows, and I am
responsible for the effects or outcomes. This is ethics in action.
Part II
The Ethics of Corporate
Human Act and Actions
The Human Person and the
Human Act
From Part I it should be clear that the human person is a multi-polar unity of
several faculties and powers:

Sensitive (5 senses and their combinations, instincts, drives,

observations and sense memory),

Affective (moods, emotions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs and passions),

Cognitive (perceiving and conceiving, thinking and reasoning, intuition

and imagination, exploration and experimentation),

Volitive (deliberation and will, choice and freedom, liberty and autonomy,
commitment and dedication);

Personhood : a unique individual and social, immanent and transcendent

combination and composition of the body and soul, mind and matter, self
and others;

Environment : a planned and highly engineered product of the internal

and external stimuli and worlds.
What is an Executive Human Act?
Human acts are those that stem from human actors as human beings. Since
the human personhood is basically constituted of body and soul, mind and
matter, emotion and spirit, intellect and will, and because of this unique
composition it has ISIT, it reasonably follows that human acts are those that
define the human person as person.

They are acts that are characterized by knowledge (derived from ones
intellect and rationality) and freedom (capacity for choices based on ones

Human acts are thus freely willed acts.

Hence, two elements are essential to human acts: an element of ones reason
and ones volition.

Human reasoning is the combined effect of the intellect via thinking,

intuition, imagination, explanation and experimentation on the sense
and affective stimuli.
Human willing or volition is the combined effect of freedom and choice,
commitment and dedication, deliberation and perseverance on sense,
affective and cognitive stimuli.

Human Acts are Deliberate and


Hence, they imply human control through rationality and

will; they are willed.

A truly human act is deliberate and voluntary; it is not

forced or unduly constrained.

Deliberation implies knowledge of what one is doing,


V oluntary implies a free choice on the part of the

human person to act.

Hence, executive human acts are those corporate

acts that are deliberate and voluntary.
Concluding Moral Challenges
Our transcendental freedom empowers us to
change ourselves, to redefine ourselves, even to
reinvent ourselves and the image of God in us.

We are, therefore, responsible not only for our

individual acts and their consequences, but
through these acts, responsible for our human

This is because we image ourselves through our

choices, decisions, values, acts and actions; we
image ourselves through our character,
personality and temperament.
(Group work)
With your perception of Human
Personhood and Dignity post this
session, how would you treat:

Self and

Others (in general and at work place)?

Thank You