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¿Por qué luchas? (II)

“Para construir la vida con mayor libertad que la que la circunstancia personal me ha otorgado.”

Nueva señal, desde el blog de Maribel.

El vídeo es concluyente:

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The sceptical polymath

Leída en The philosophers´magazine una entrevista a Ziauddin Sardar.

Algunos párrafos que destacamos:

““Since I wanted consciously to promote Islamic thought, right from the beginning, I was very dissatisfied with a great deal of what I read about Islam, since the Koran constantly asks the reader to be a thinker. The most common phrases in the Koran are ‘have you not thought’, ‘did you not think’, ‘look at the signs of nature’; and the interesting thing for me is that the Koran itself, although it’s a clearly a religious text, continuously asks questions. This is what Ibn Rushd and the philosophers in Islam were actually doing – asking questions. So asking questions became my methodology, in a sense.”

In his own case, he finds it “difficult to separate” his pursuit of philosophy and his investigations of Islam. “I am not a conventional Muslim thinker. I’m not too interested in theology. Let me be totally honest: theology bores me. I’m not interested in how many angels there are and what are their names and exactly when to bow and not to bow and whether to raise your index finger or not during prayer. I’m interested in looking at Islamic concepts, if you like, from a philosophical perspective.

“If you take for instance the concept of halal, which basically means praiseworthy – something is good and wholesome, for you, for society, for the world. This is a central concept in Islam – Islam is built on the notion of halal. But nowadays it seems to have been reduced to meat. There could not have been a greater injustice than to reduce such a profound notion as halal to simply halal meat. And to me this is a philosophical question, in the sense of: how do we live a halal life in contemporary times?”

It’s a question that Sardar believes has several dimensions. One is ethical. “If you are slaughtering an animal, first of all you need to treat that animal as an individual creation of God. So you look the animal in the eye and say ‘I am doing this in the name of God because I am hungry.’ So you can’t apply the same principle to mass slaughter in the abattoir. Factory farming can never be halal in my notion of thought. It’s just not ethical. For me one of the most halal things you can do is switch the light off, because climate change is real. I want to open up the notion up of halal from an ethical perspective.”

Then there is an epistemological dimension: “My pursuit of knowledge as well as the knowledge I generate has to be praiseworthy and healthy. So the way I seek knowledge, the experimental methods I use, has to show reverence for the creation of God. I cannot destroy the object of my study simply because I want to study it.”

Sardar’s approach to Islamic thought can sound – deceptively – almost secular.

“I don’t see Islam as a religion. As I have said, I’m not particularly interested in theology. I’m interested in Islam as a world-view, and as a world-view it is based on certain ethical concepts, so I’m committed to a particular ethical way of looking at and shaping the world, at the end of the day. My Islam is about epistemology, it’s about ethical interpretation of concepts, it’s about engaging and changing the world for the better. It’s also about prayer and fasting, but that’s only a minor component of the way I see Islam as a world-view.”

(…)

“I think your education has been an unjust education. An education that says to you philosophy started with the Greeks – Plato and Aristotle and all that in Athens – and then suddenly the enlightenment happens, is telling you is that there is a dark ages when nothing happened, which is a gross distortion of history. This is where Al-Ghazali Book of Knowledge comes in very handy, because he would argue that the knowledge that has been passed to you is not true knowledge in the sense that it has a lot of distortion of history in it.

“Basically what you’ve missed is from 8th century to 17th century, so you’ve missed a thousand years of philosophy, which is a hell of a lot of philosophy. You also missed how Europe acquired all that. So in a sense you’ve been unjust to yourself because what makes Julian the self is truncated – you have no awareness of the rich Islamic heritage that shaped yourself.”

There are also specific ideas in Islamic philosophy which he thinks could and should have had more impact on western philosophy. For instance, “in the western tradition of thought, especially post-enlightenment, reason and values have been two watertight compartments. Science is supposed to be neutral, international, it has no emotions or values in it. When you study Islamic philosophy you realise that there is no such thing as neutral science. We would not have to wait until the twenty-first century to discover that science is socially constructed because Al Ghazali knew that knowledge was socially constructed.”

There doesn’t seem to be too much sign of philosophy departments in British and American universities taking Sardar’s advice and broadening their curricula. Perhaps the bigger problem they have, however, is precisely in the fact that they are philosophy departments.

“I do not believe in disciplinary boundaries, that this bit is physics and this bit is chemistry, because I don’t think nature behaves like that. So I don’t think this is philosophy and this is not philosophy. For me you pursue a question and you need to do whatever you need to do to answer that question, and if you need to go and learn geology to answer that question then you need to go and learn geology to answer that question.”

Perhaps that is the real incoherence of the philosophers: that they think they can be pure philosophers. If that’s right, then Sardar is better off remaining a polymath, and leaving the philosopher title for others.”

Sobre Ziauddin Sardar. Artículos.

Filósofos menos conocidos

Comienza también el curso en el Centro de Estudios Judeo-Cristianos, este año titulado “El judaísmo moderno: Israel y la Diáspora y su relación con el cristianismo”.

Varios profesores universitarios, especialistas en esta filosofía, tratarán de acercar con sencillez la figura de pensadores tan importantes, para entender aspectos como la violencia, la posmodernidad o la alteridad, como Rosenzweig, Buber o Lévinas. Hay una apasionante filosofía en las vidas y en las obras de estas personas. Y muchas posibilidades de aplicar su pensamiento a la vida de las empresas y las organizaciones, creando posibilidades donde antes no se contemplaba ninguna.

Conviene quizá echar un vistazo al curso o aparecer por conferencias concretas.

Escuela de Filosofía: comienza el curso 2010-11

Nuestros amigos de la Escuela de Filosofía presentaron el lunes el curso 2010-2011, con dos programas de referencia: el de Historia del Pensamiento Filosófico y el que trata sobre los Monoteísmos. Asimismo, se trabajará en otro nuevo programa de diálogos filosóficos.

En franco diálogo ya con ellos, les deseamos un buen año y trataremos de dar a conocer a quien se nos acerque la labor que están realizando desde hace años por difundir la filosofía como actitud.

Le mandaremos el folleto general a quien nos lo solicite.

Soft o hard: ¿qué es qué?

La densidad de asuntos relacionados con el fin de Fenareta va en aumento (o quizá es que estamos más pendientes de dichos asuntos ahora que antes de ponernos en camino: la relatividad no descansa).

El caso es que hoy tuvimos una provechosa reunión con tres ejecutivos de empresa, uno de los cuales, afamado gestor de empresas públicas, y ahora presidiendo una empresa privada con 4.000 clientes, nos hacía una reflexión al hilo de los primeros pasos de Fenareta en el mundo empresarial: encontraréis dificultades en el camino, porque el empresario español maneja bien lo “hard” (los números, las estadísticas, los modelos de medición…) pero en lo “soft” (la intuición, las apreciaciones personales, la formación humanística, la psicología…) se mueve como elefante en cacharrería: con poca pericia.

Llegamos después a la oficina (muy ilusionados ante la fenomenal perspectiva de poder acercar la metodología filosófica Fenareta a tantas empresas) y es de nuevo Financial Times quien parece que ha escuchado a nuestro interlocutor esta mañana.

Adjuntamos el artículo para reflexionar sobre este asunto.

Nothing beats the exercise of judgment

By Philip Delves Broughton

Published: September 6 2010 23:30 | Last updated: September 6 2010 23:30

The phrase “paradigm shift” should be enough to send chills down any manager’s spine. It is what consultants say when they don’t know what else to recommend. Or economists, when all their predictions have just gone up in smoke. “What you need now, dear client, is a ‘paradigm shift’. Here’s my bill and I’ll be off.”

But since the failure of many financial institutions to predict or manage through the economic crisis, this is what many economists and business academics are calling for: a “paradigm shift” in how we think about the balance between human judgment and the efficiency of scale in running a profitable business.

In a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, Amar Bhidé blamed the financial crisis “judgment deficit” on too many black box computer models and too few humans making decisions for themselves.

In this newspaper, the economist Joseph Stiglitz recently blamed markets and regulators for placing too much faith in the efficient markets hypothesis and assuming that market prices reflected fully all relevant information.

What is missing from this debate is the voice of the manager, the person who more than any economist or academic, understands this problem intuitively. Because in any business, large or small, financial crisis or none, this problem comes up every single day. Do you prefer to trust people or processes in running your business? In difficult moments, do you put your faith in the seemingly clean, dependable data or the executive who says she feels uneasy about the decision they are leading to?

A few years ago, economists were briefly fascinated by the distinction between hard and soft information. Hard information includes numbers, charts and empirical data. Soft information includes intuition, or personal judgments about people and situations. George Soros once said that he dumps positions when his lower back starts to ache. That’s the soft signal that might support a hard judgment on the direction of the euro versus the dollar.

In hiring, a CV contains hard information about degrees obtained and jobs done. Personal references are the soft stuff, which help an employer distinguish between the blithering gasbag with blue chip degrees and the diligent genius with only a high school education. All big decisions require a balance of soft and hard information.

The other part of this problem is how you grow. Businesses requiring endless individual judgments are not nearly as scalable as those built on technology platforms. The reason banks came to depend on credit scores to make loans was that it simplified the process to the point where they could make more loans, faster, with what seemed like a satisfactory level of scrutiny.

The blow-ups of the past three years aside, it’s hard to see this model fundamentally changing. Some may pine for the traditional bank manager tyrannising a local lending system, but the efficiency and profitability of scale lending is not going away.

Furthermore, it’s not as though depending on soft information in finance is any protection against disaster. The success of micro-lending in the developing world may seem to justify extending credit based on soft information, the observation that people without any financial history will work hard to fulfil their obligations to their families and communities.

But then Bernie Madoff’s scam was a victory of soft over hard information. The whispered remark in Palm Beach, “this Madoff’s a genius”, was valued more than any proper look at what Madoff was doing.

The slow growth of person-to-person lending may in part be because most of us still value the impersonal lending processes of large institutions.

Bo Burlingham’s excellent book Small Giants – Companies that choose to be great instead of big – describes several US companies that faced similar challenges to the ones that economists are now debating. Given the opportunity to become bigger, do you seize it? Or is there something magical about staying small? What are the pitfalls of size? At what point does a manager go from being a manager of people to an implementer of organisational processes? And what gets lost if that happens?

I know the chief executive of a Midwestern company with 90 employees who believes firmly that going beyond that would change the nature of the company for the worse. He frets that his employees would lose their sense of purpose, the sense that their work and the decisions they make matter. It means passing up opportunities to scale what he does, but he believes that preserving the human dimension of his company is worth it.

This is not to say there is virtue in staying small. But rather that for the right manager and company, there is value – just as there is value for others in being large. It comes down to what economists struggle to model and managers grapple with all day: judgment. No paradigm shift required.

philip@philipdelvesbroughton.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

Se dice “persona”

Adjuntamos un interesante artículo del Financial Times.

Son muchas las escuelas de negocio que, explícita o implícitamente, se están acercando a la noción de “persona”, con toda la riqueza que ello entraña. Han sido muchos años de formación técnica, y se empieza a constatar que el “carácter” ha quedado demasiado olvidado.

Profesión, profesar… iremos poco a poco recuperando nociones tan válidas como aquellas que sirvieron de base a la economía medieval, esa magnífica época que luego dio lugar al Renacimiento. Recomendamos un vistazo a los manuales de Historia Económica Mundial para entender lo que está sucediendo. Es la vuelta a los oficios, a la vocación, al compromiso personal en todo lo que se hace.

Es la necesidad de recuperar la confianza en la persona que ejerce una profesión. Eso no es cuestión ni de dinero ni de reparto de dinero. Es una cuestión de amor.

Financial Times 05-09-2010

Management is not and can never be a profession

By Richard Barker

Published: September 5 2010

In the wake of the economic crisis and the resulting debate on the culpability of business schools, the move among academics to promote management as a profession has picked up steam.

Leading proponents argue that business schools should model themselves on professional schools, creating a code of ethics to help create a cadre of MBAs who are more accountable to society.

The starting point here – that management is a profession and should behave like one – is understandable. After all, managers’ status in society is similar to that of doctors or lawyers, as is the level of responsibility they carry.

But the analogy is false. Management is not a profession and neither can it become one. Worse, hanging the mantle “professional” on business education fosters misguided prescriptions for reform.

We turn to professionals because they have knowledge we do not possess. We trust the advice of doctors or lawyers because they have been guaranteed by professional associations. In turn, these associations are made possible because there is broad consensus on requisite professional education, certification as the exclusive route to professional practice, and the power of exclusion from practice through enforcement of ethical standards.

Management is different. While the professional is a specialist, the manager is a jack of all trades and master of none. The role of the manager is general, variable and indefinable – and as such resists the standards and certification that a true profession demands. A simple illustration is that it would be unthinkable for society to allow an unqualified person to attempt surgery, yet no one would seriously suggest that an MBA was required for entry into management. In short, there cannot be a professional association that controls entry to, and exit from, a profession of management.

The skill of integration is the distinguishing feature of a manager and is at the heart of why business education should differ from professional education. The key is to recognise that integration is not taught but learnt. It takes place in the minds of students rather than in the content of programme modules. The students link the various elements of the programme, including learning from each other and building on their own unique experiences.

It is therefore vital that business schools see themselves primarily as learning environments and not simply, and more narrowly, as places in which students are taught.

In a survey of 600 alumni who graduated from Cambridge university’s Judge Business School, in the UK, respondents ranked learning that took place outside the classroom, in project teams and learning groups and more generally in the business school and wider university, as more useful to them in their current careers than the technical and functional knowledge taught in core courses. It is this learning beyond the classroom that feeds the practice of management.

Business schools should also play down grading culture. An academic grading system cannot adequately predict managerial ability. It is possible to measure students in subjects such as finance and accounting, which are analogous to courses in professional schools, but it is much more problematic to assess the essential skills of management.

Moreover, the attempt to reduce learning to grading inevitably results in
non-collaborative behaviour and a dysfunctional learning environment. Students should be empowered, not ranked.

Business schools cannot uniquely certify managers, enabling them to practise. Nor can they regulate managers’ conduct. They provide learning environments that consolidate, share and build business experience and help equip managers to deal with diverse working environments.

Business schools are not professional schools but incubators for business leadership.

Richard Barker is a former MBA Director at Cambridge university’s Judge Business School in the UK and author of “No, Management Is Not a Profession” in the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review, from which this piece is adapted.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.