Following Aristotle, each human organization is
essentially comprised of people, and, so, the propriety of their
relationships determines the success or failure of their
organization. Each person possesses both an individual life
as well as a life of relationships with others. Ethics,
therefore, has something to say about the improvement of the
individual person in addition to issues of social concern. In
particular, recognition of the four philosophical
transcendentals-truth, beauty, goodness, and unity-helps a social
group operate with excellence and its people live happier lives.
These transcendentals are helpful guides because each corresponds
to a different dimension of human experience;
intellectual dimension aims at truth;
aesthetic dimension at beauty;
- the moral
dimension at goodness;
- and the
spiritual dimension at unity.
At the first dim dawn of reason the new processes
of transcendental thought must have appeared strange and
inexplicable to the evolving primate. He must have felt bewildered
when the new-born faculty began to overrule the instinctive
behaviour of the mind. Entry to another dimension of
consciousness, where reason is superseded, must have the same
perplexing and mystifying effect on the mind.
These four dimensions of experience, and the
corresponding transcendental foundations of excellence, provide us
with the key to both satisfaction in personal activity and
corporate spirit. They are the key to sustainable social excellence
because they are the foundations of group fulfillment, and they
have that status because they are the deepest touchstones for
ultimate individual fulfillment and happiness.
Saint Thomas and Aristotle, both teach that the
beginning of any endeavour starts with the recognition of being, or
truth. Truth is the foundation of all human partnerships, and any
social enterprise is essentially human partnerships.
But truth, though foundational, is not enough.
Human beings must also have something attractive to motivate them;
hence, the need for beauty. Environments that reflect beauty are
more productive and have happier employees. Further, beauty raises
the consciousness of individuals and gives them a sense of being
cared about. Providing a beautiful environment, however, is an
essentially passive activity, though it will transfer itself into
the beauty of performance. In making a contribution to society
itself ... there is a kind of beauty that can be experienced only
by the contributor, from the kinesthetic sense of her own movement
to the inner awareness of artistic 'making' as the ancient Greeks
might have said.
The relevance of this to the business world is
extremely important. It is this application of both active
and passive beauty to the social world that transforms any human
enterprise into a beautiful act. In this sense, the structures of
business are, then, some of our most basic tools for the
performance art of life. This is the beauty of business.
Doing beautiful things in a beautiful
environment, though, is still not sufficient. Human beings must be
convinced of the essential goodness of what they are doing.
When people are asked to participate in group activities in
conditions of perceived unfairness and unkindness, they fall into a
self- protective mode. Like turtles, they crawl into their shells
and hide. They are not motivated to take positive risks, to dig
deep inside to discover all their talents and bring those talents
to bear in creative ways on the challenges of the social
enterprise. Enterprises that pursue goodness build that
most essential component of all human relationships- trust. Without
trust, relationships collapse into suspicion, which prevents the
collaborative partnerships that are the foundation of social
activity, and unethical practices prevent activities from working
toward any lasting good.
Yet, the true, the beautiful, and the good are
still not enough. Human beings must perceive a sense of wholeness
and that they are part of some greater thing-in other words, unity,
the spiritual dimension of work and play. The heart of spirituality
is connectedness, and the aim of connectedness is unity. This
concept of unity leads to the idea of the worth and value of the
human individual. Uniqueness and union are really the two sides of
the same coin: by respecting and nurturing the twin needs for
a sense of uniqueness and a feeling of union among those around us,
we help ourselves as well as our associates to attain that form of
corporate spirit that is the wellspring of happiness, fulfillment,
and quality of the highest order in everything that we do.