Only Art Can Save the World

With its exclusive focus on profit-making, modern-day businesses tend to violate the integrity and diversity of natural ecosystems, the autonomy and culture of local communities and the chance that future generations will lead a decent life.

The metaphysics of modern-day business can be described by the following statements: (i) ‘to be’ is to be a marketable resource; (ii) ‘to be’ involves being either an object available for productive activity on the market, or else a subject who makes use of such objects; and, (iii) the only mode of thinking is calculative thinking; the consideration and measurement of every being as a marketable resource.

Such market metaphysics has a tendency to lead to the violation of nature and human beings. In many cases violent business practices result in ‘essential’ harm such as the exploitation of forests for timber, the development of nuclear weapons to maim or exterminate life, or the commoditization of women as mere sex objects.

The core of market metaphysics is what Martin Heidegger calls “calculative thinking”. In Heidegger’s view poetic thinking represented by genuine art, is the antagonist to that kind of thinking. Genuine art always presents “poetic dwelling”.

To preserve nature and to satisfy real human needs, gentle, careful ways of undertaking economic activities are needed. Poetic dwelling models inspired by great art including tapestry can influence organizations to tranform themselves into responsive and caring entities where intrinsic motivation to serve the greater good is activated, and success is measured in multidimensional, holistic terms beyond the language of money.

Laszlo Zsolnai

Professor and Director

Business Ethics Center

Corvinus University of Budapest

President European SPES Institute Leuven, Belgium