The mind meat of business ethics:
Hopefully food for thought
Søren Wenstøp – November 2012
BI Center for Climate Strategy
Business as a meeting place
 Where minds meet on a truely interdisciplinary arena.
 A marketplace for ideas, where what works
sells at a primium.
 Hopes and fears, risks and opportunities
The beehives of science
My aim:
Interdisciplinary integration!
Basic scientific outlook
Beliefs in contiuous need of justification:
• Coherence
The need to conform across
• Correspondence
The need to conform to evidence
A moral outlook
• Beliefs about what is
 Necessary but insufficient
On the other side of Hume’s dictum:
• Values about what ought to be
(desires, wishes, hopes, fears, ...)
Ethics and business
• Business is intrinsically relational and within
the domain of morality or ethics.
• Practical ethics is also (in a wider or tigher
sense) relational.
• Central ethical notions such as ‘ought’ bear a
kinship with our dealings in business.
(Etymologically ‘ought’ and ‘ought to’ comes
from ‘owed to’).
• Business and ethics both concern how we act,
interact, and transact socially. 
Stepping back: Meta-ethics
(Meta-ethics  Normative ethics)
• Is there normativity?
• What is normativity?
• Where does is come from?
Meta-ethical questions as
scientific questions1
• Is there normativity?
• What is normativity?
• Where does is come from?
Meta-ethical questions as
scientific questions2
• Is there normativity?
 Yes
• What is normativity?
Affect-based, affect-infused deliberation
Emotions, feelings, volitions, intentions
• Where does is come from?
 The brain
Lines of objection
(Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience)
• Paradigmatic monopolization
• Battle across disciplines
50’ 60’ 70’
80’ 90’ 00’
Affect theory
00’ 10’ ?
• Behaviorism tends to reject cognitivism and affect theory
• Cognititvism tends to reject behaviorism and affect theory
Objections to affect
• Explicit claims and implicit positions:
(1) Affect does not exist
(2) Affect cannot be studied scientifically
(3) Affect is not important or relevant
The scientific pecking order
Affect theory
The classical behaviorist objection1
• The behaviorist view of the brain / mind:
The classical behaviorist objection2
Talking about the mind = ‘mentalism’.
The brain is ‘a black box’ (Skinner, 1938)
Unconditioned stimulus and unconditioned response
The law of conditioning & the law of extinction
• No way to study the nature of the mind
• Affect is a mental notion, and mental
notions are mere fictions
‘The cognitive revolution’
(Psychology, neurocience)
Talking about the mind is again legitimate
Talking about the brain is again legitimate
Talking about cognition is great
However, talking about emotions is still suspect
... unless it can be re-conceptualized as a form of
congition! ‘Hot cognitions’ (Abelson, 1963)
‘Cognitive imperialism’
• Tomkins (1963) alerted us to ‘cognitive imperialism’;
the imperialistic tendicies of ‘cognitive psychology’,
and its detrimental effect for a correct understanding
of affect.
Classical philosophical objection1
• ‘The open question argument’ (Moore, 1903):
O is X,Y,Z ... but is it good (or bad)?
A meaningful question, but with a reply: Yes/No
Positive affects are good / negative affects bad.
Classical philosophical objection2
• ‘The naturalist fallacy’ (Moore, 1903):
Deriving something natural from something nonnatural
This is not really so
Reversely: Something non-natural projected from
something natural. Normativity rooted in reality.
Moore’s solution: Unanalyzable, non-natural
properties amounts to unexplainable mysticism.
Where do oughts come from?
 ‘Oughts’ are internal
The emotion brain
The basis of emotions
and affect is subcortical (Panksepp,
(The ‘mind meat’ of business ethics)
Layered emotional systems
(Paksepp & Biven, 2012)
Rage Seeking
• 7 distinct ancient (sub-cortical) emotional systems,
which we share with all other mammals.
• Highly developped cortexial functions are disticticely
Cognition and affect
The extended libic system
The individual as social-relational
The care system’s
multiple potensialities
Business professionalism
(A very rough analysis)
Relational business ethics
(Acceptance with worries attached)
• We are to a considerable extent guided by and also
limited by our relational emotional capacities.
• Within-relational ethics leaves us with problems of
relational-external costs (relational externalities).
• Rent-seeking behavior, in particular, seems to be an
especially strong relational glue. It can blind us to
wider social consequences.
• Example: Human-induced climate change.
• Can we and should expand the relational circles; at
what relational-internal sacrifice? What would this
mean for business?
Thank you!
Contact information: [email protected]

The mind meat of business ethics: Food for thought