How does philosophy matter to management studies?
“Philosophy […] is the project of breaking the closure at the level of thought”
Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, p. 21
Like any form of systematic inquiry (that is to say, any kind of practice), management and organization studies relies on a bundle of deep and frequently unexamined presuppositions regarding the nature of organizations, the relation of agents to them, and the nature of knowledge produced. Those presuppositions fall into three categories: ontological (what is the nature of organizations?), epistemological (how is knowledge about organizations generated and validated?), and praxeological (what is the relationship between knowledge/theory and action/practice in a practically oriented field such as management studies?).
Ontological, epistemological and praxeological questions qua philosophical are higher-order questions - meta to management and organization studies as a social scientific discipline. Philosophical questions are conceptual in character, namely they are questions about the nature of the concepts we use in management research to explain or account for the phenomena of interest (including the concepts ‘account’ and ‘explain’). Thus, questions such as “what is organizational change?”, “what is organizational learning (or knowledge)?”, “what is a decision (or strategy)?”, or “what is useful knowledge and how is it to be acquired?”, are not just empirical questions but conceptual too, requiring elucidation. To be concerned with the elucidation of key concepts commonly used in the practice of organization and management studies as a social scientific discipline, is to bring a philosophical orientation to the study of those concepts and move the discussion to the meta-level; and to interrogate the very frameworks within which disciplinary questions are explored. In essence, philosophical analysis helps keep meaning open in a social scientific field.
Aim of the seminars
In this series of seminars we intend to provide a forum for management scholars to discuss philosophical questions relevant to their field. This could be done via scholars:
(a) focusing on particular phenomena (e.g. routines, change, strategy making, accountability, learning, etc.) and exploring how different philosophical frames enable the carrying out of different kinds of organizational research; (b) engaging in the conceptual analysis of key categories used in organizational research (e.g. the nature of organizational change or knowledge; performativity; actionable knowledge, etc.); and
(c) exploring the implications of particular philosophical frames or philosophers’ work for how organizational phenomena and research practices may be re-envisaged (e.g. the implications of process philosophy, existential phenomenology, or virtue ethics for organizational research).
Send an email with the subject “Socrates Club Info” to rene dot wiedner at wbs dot ac dot uk if you would like to be kept up to date about upcoming seminars. You will need to register for each session because space is limited.
Details concerning the next meeting of the Socrates Club will be posted here as soon as they are available.