Socratic Ignorance and Business Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 175 (3):537-553 (2020)
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Abstract

Socrates’ inquiry into the nature of the virtues and human excellence led him to experience Socratic ignorance, a practical puzzlement experienced by his recognition that his central life commitments were conceptually problematic. This practical perplexity was not, however, an epistemic weakness but a reflection of his wisdom. I argue that Socratic ignorance, a concept that has not received scholarly attention in business ethics, is a central aim that business practitioners should seek. It is what a truthful, thorough, and courageous inquiry into their professional roles and commitments leads to. It wakes them up from the moral complacency engendered by organizations, forcing them to become much more critical of their day-to-day activities and more intentional about living virtuously. It curbs the corrupting potential of authority positions and prevents the tendency of subordinates to routinely conform to sanctioned norms and expectations. Finally, it opens up novel and creative moral avenues and provides a promising model to deal with the conflicts posed by our globalized and increasingly polarized world.

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Santiago Mejia
Fordham University