Philosophy of Management

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–4 | Cite as


  • Wim VandekerckhoveEmail author

There are many schools of philosophy. Likewise, the philosophical approaches and methods of philosophy of management are many. As the editor of this journal I sometimes wonder whether there are too many for one journal. Reading the growing number of manuscripts submitted to the editorial desk of this journal, I have felt the desire to delineate the scope of the journal somewhat. But I have never found a delineation that is satisfying to me or to the executive editors. Luckily so, I must add.

Every time I prepare to write the editorial for a new issue, I read again the papers that have waited their queue to be assigned to the issue. What strikes me is that there are always overlapping and connecting themes emerging from what initially seemed a disparate and random collection of manuscripts accepted for publication. In those moments I count our lucky stars for not delineating the scope of the journal beyond its name: philosophy of management.

The overall theme emerging from the articles in this issue is epistemology. Before I briefly introduce each article in turn, I would like to specify the sub-themes present in this issue. There are two. First, a number of articles can be situated on the nexus of epistemology and ethics. Petersen (2019) discusses sense-making, causality, and peer justice evaluations. Faldetta (2019) takes on Levinas and organizational justice. Tajalli and Segal (2019) work on Levinas as a foundation of moral epistemology. Martineau (2019) has written a book review on pragmatist epistemology and organization studies. And Craze (2019) turns to neuroscience to tackle a well-known epistemological fallacy in business ethics, i.e. the separation thesis. The second sub-theme comprises of two articles that provide an philosophical discussion of epistemological assumptions in scholarly work that had a considerable uptake amongst management practitioners and educators, but have so far been largely ignored in academe. Heller (2019) does that for Scharmer’s Theory U, and Melé et al. (2019) do that for López’ ‘Freely Adaptive System’ (FAS) model.

I hope these articles in themselves, or in a combined reading of them, can further spur our scholarly community in doing (and writing) philosophy of management. Now let me introduce the articles.

Martin Petersen (2019) opens this issue with a paper combining Weick’s idea of commitment to Stacey’s idea of interdependence. More precisely, Petersen (2019) uses retrospective sense-making and its cognitive foundation in counterfactual belief to discuss the idea of causality in cognitive evaluations of horizontal justice. The literature on intra-unit justice, or peer justice, applies the logical of vertical justice to horizontal justice, i.e. the threefold distributive, procedural, and interpersonal justice are reframed as distributive peer justice, procedural peer justice, and interpersonal peer justice. Peterson’s (2019) starting point is to question that transposition, e.g. reward systems are a vertical decision rather than a decision taken among peers, and hence only interpersonal justice applies to intra-unit justice. The problem of causality - the main discussion in the paper - leads Petersen (2019) to conclude that indeed, strictly speaking only interpersonal justice can be applied in horizontal justice events. However, the psychosocial fabric of the social reality - which an organisation is - is experienced ‘as if’ one is being treated unfairly by peers in a distributive or procedural way. With that, Petersen makes the case not to underestimate the phenomenological dimension of morality.

Peter Heller (2019) presents a philosophical exploration of Theory U, an approach to leadership developed by C. Otto Scharmer (2007) from MIT Sloan School of Management. Written in 2007, this book has been translated in a number of languages. Whilst the uptake by practitioners is large in the field of leadership education, organisational learning and management training, very few scholars have engaged with this work. The subtitle of Scharmer’s (2007) is ‘leading from the emerging future’. As one would expect, a book published in the year the financial crisis broke out, starts with appraising the challenges of disruption. Heller (2019) critically examines how that book from 2007, with a huge uptake among practitioners, perceives those challenges and how one would best respond to them. Heller (2019) has the advantage of writing in somewhat 10 years later, but his analysis is important because many of the practitioners that scholars interact with will have been influenced by Scharmer’s Theory U. For example, Theory U claims to be an application of Toynbee’s challenge-response model of evolution (historic, economic and social). Heller (2019) dispels that, or at least nuances that claim. Heller further critically examines the epistemology and method of Theory U in the light of the work of Nietzsche, Capra, Varela, Husserl and Steiner to critically examine the epistemology and method of Theory U.

Gareth Craze (2019) uses to opposing domains hypothesis to argue that the mainstream conceptualization of CSR is antithetical to social and ethical reasoning at the level of the brain. CSR initiatives are almost universally tethered to the idea that corporations exist to serve their own performance objectives, and that these will ultimately take precedence over wider macro-social considerations. Craze (2019) argues that the neurological tension between the domains of analytic reasoning and empathic or socio-emotional reasoning, and the neural correlates of each, underly this conception of CSR. Craze warns that uncritically engaging with the dominant conceptualisation of CSR increases the scope of dehumanization, and poses and ethical danger. In fact, Craze (2019) offers us no less than a micro-level account - and refutation - of the separation thesis.

Guglielmo Faldetta (2019) contributes to the scholarship on damaged relationships in the workplace. The literature has used several theoretical lenses to empirically describe and explain what behaviours are experienced as betrayal, deviant behaviour, trust violations, and breaches of the psychological contract. How people respond to injustice has also been studied. i.e. negatively in terms of anger or revenge, and positively in terms of repairing trust, or forgiveness. Faldetta (2019) starts from the observation that relatively little scholarly work exists on reconciliation. In the article, Faldetta (2019) looks to the work of Levinas to provide a philosophical foundation of restorative justice within organisations - where actors involved in the injustice get to experience a sense of justice. Faldetta argues that Levinas’ notion of justice is unique in that it introduces principles such as charity, compassion and mercy in the process of restorative justice. According to Faldetta, that may make repairing damaged relationships more effective.

Tajalli and Segal (2019) undertake an attempt in their article, to deepen ethical practice in the context of organisations. Heeding the dismissal of superfluous application of the business ethics favourite ethical approaches - consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics - and the often manifest windowdressing, Tajalli and Segal turn to Levinas’ notion of responsibility to provide a new grounding for business ethics. They do not shy away from normative theory - i.e. approaches that provide a heuristic for decision-making - but they insist that business ethics must foremost be practical rather than applied. That implies fully situating business within social relationships. Levinas understands ethics as first philosophy, rather than something that comes after ontology and epistemology. In other words, there is nothing outside of relations, and to seek knowledge or wisdom (including about how to act or what to decide) outside of a relationship consists of violence towards the other. Tajalli and Segal (2019) then turn to Weber to consider both relative and absolute components in ethical decision making.

The article by Melé et al. (2019) discusses the ‘Freely Adaptive System’ (FAS) model developed by Péréz López, a former Dean of IESE Business School. Although the work of Péréz López has considerable uptake among Spanish speaking scholars, his work on cybernetics has so far been largely ignored in the international academe. His FAS model is more suited for understanding human interaction than other cybernetic model, which seem more appropriate for living organisms other than humans. Melé et al. (2019) situate the model in cybernetics, and argues how the model is consistent with Aristotelian anthropology. Doing so enables the author to posit that the FAS model can be used as a heuristic for decision making in repeated interactions between two persons, in that it considers three basic criteria - effectiveness, internal efficiency and consistency. The importance of this paper lies in how it furthers the business ethics debate by suggesting that ethics and efficiency do not need to be contradicting tenets of management.

Régis Martineau (2019) closes this issue with a book review of Pragmatism and Organization Studies (Lorino 2018). Martineau praises the author for showing how a pragmatist approach avoids blind spots, e.g. representationalism - hence the title of his review: ‘How to avoid mistaking the map for the territory’ (Martineau 2019).



  1. Craze, G. 2019. Corporate social responsibility and dehumanization. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).
  2. Faldetta, G. 2019. When relationships are broken: Restorative justice under a Levinasion approach. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).
  3. Heller, P.W. 2019. The philosophy of theory U: A critical examination. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).
  4. Lorino, P. 2018. Pragmatism and organization studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Martineau, R. 2019. How to avoid mistaking the map for the territory. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).
  6. Melé, D., Chinchilla, M.N. & López-Jurado, M. (2019). The ‘freely adaptive system’. Application of this cybernetic model to an organization formed by two dynamic human systems. Philosophy of Management 18(1).
  7. Petersen, M.L. 2019. Horizontal unfairness and retrospective sensemaking. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).
  8. Scharmer, C.O. 2007. Theory U. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Tajalli, P., and S. Segal. 2019. Levinas, weber, and a hybrid framework for business ethics. Philosophy of Management 18 (1).

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of BusinessUniversity of GreenwichLondonUK

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