In Switzerland, The Rise Of The Philosopher-Manager

The financial crisis may be one reason executives are flocking to classes and seminars to learn what the great Western philosophers had to say about such concepts as respect, authority, and ethics.

What's the Latest Development?


Swiss executives are getting some new lessons in business and the meaning of life from some very old teachers: Seminars and university lectures on ancient and modern philosophy are giving them new insights into their choices and actions. Since 2004, University of Fribourg instructor Bernard Schumacher has offered a "philosophical retreat for executive staff" limited to 15 participants at a time. It's now so popular that he has had to turn people away. For those who want a slightly different experience, Philip Clark and Gabriel Dorthe will visit companies as part of a project, Socrates, designed to "put philosophy at the heart of all organizations."

What's the Big Idea?

Recent financial upheaval has caused many executives in Switzerland and elsewhere to reconsider how and why they do what they do. A study of Schumacher's retreat participants showed that they were "more prone to introspection...[and] showed an improved capacity to formulate concepts and [to] question themselves, which made constructive criticism easier and made them more inclined to listen to others." Former philosophy teacher turned philosophy consultant Eugénie Vegleris describes one example of her work: "I call on Kant to address the topic of respect...[I]n the workplace, people often get confused between judging acts and judging other people."

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