April 18, 2013
“Aristotle, Aquinas, and Machiavelli walk into a board room” was a speech given by a classics professor at Boston College. This interesting talk centered on ethics throughout the work force. Although I am not a business major and was a bit lost throughout the presentation, I found that his main claim was extremely relatable. I was also surprised at the connection with William Shakespeare’s play “The Twelfth Night.”
“Aristotle, Aquinas, and Machiavelli walk into a board room” contained two parts that came together through the presenter’s claim. The first part of the talk was a power point slide show that laid out his claim that, one needs to be enlightened through prudential wisdom, state craft, and cleverness to be a right ordered soul. Being a right ordered soul and having this basic knowledge will lead to business ethics and guide one to make good decisions in the work field. This professor defined prudential wisdom as “oriented to knowing what in fact is good, knowing what is at stake, having deliberation and character, and finally sophrosyne, which is, the most important virtue, self control.” State Craft as defined “having self control, being righteous, being practical, and having a breath of wisdom.” The way these beliefs were laid out in the slides were a but confusing and hard to understand from my point of view, because I know so little about business and what makes up businesses. The second part of the presentation gave a visual that demonstrated these principles through the movie Margin Call.
Margin Call is a movie based off the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The clips of the movie were right at the crisis was unfolding as the firm liquidated its assets. The clips shown during the presentation encompasses the principles of prudential wisdom, state craft, and cleverness because the head of the firm lacked all of them completely. One of the characters, played by Kevin Spacey, was a manager showed signs of having these principles. He genuinely cared for his people who he knew were going to be laid off and out of jobs, he understood all of the consequences that his superiors were making, and he also tried thinking of ways in which he could save the firm. One thing he did lack was his self-control; in the last clip he interrupts the lunch of the head of the firm to quit. The head, played by Jeremy Irons, does not let him quite because he says “we need you,” Kevin Spacey’s character replies “I will stay, not because of your little speech, but because I need the money, I really need the money.” This shows that he does not have self-control and is gluttonous. Which are two qualities that do not incorporate well when it comes to business ethics. Overall the clips showed that when working in any field that people should always be true to themselves, work hard, make good decisions that benefit the good of all people and appreciate the outcome of the hard work.
In the play the Twelfth Night, written by William Shakespeare, a love triangle forms between Viola, the Duke, and Olivia. The triangle ultimately forms because the characters are not true to themselves and show their true intentions. This relates to the “Aristotle, Aquinas, and Machiavelli walk into a board room” event because in order to have good business ethics one must be true to themselves and have good intentions.
Viola finds herself washed up on the shores of Illyria and she is afraid of what will come of her. She decides that she will mask her identity and dress as a man. She adopts the name Cesario and becomes the Duke’s right hand man. While being loyal and determined to please the Duke, Viola finds herself falling in love with the Duke. Meanwhile, she is being sent to woo Olivia, who the Duke claims to be in love with. While Viola, disguised as Cesario, is trying to woo Olivia, Olivia falls in love with Cesario. Olivia falls in love with Cesario through his beautiful words that are being spoken from her heart about the Duke. “Write loyal cantons of contemned love/and sing them aloud even in the dead of night;/Halloo your name to the reverberate hills,/and make the babbling gossip of the air/cry out Olivia!...” (Shakespeare 16). Olivia starts to fall for Cesario because he is speaking from the heart, unlike the Duke who is trying to win her over with material goods.
In the final acts of the play everyone’s true identities are shown. Olivia and Sebastian are in love and are to be married, and Cesario transfers back to Viola and the Duke and Viola are also to be married. The Duke will only marry Viola, he wants to marry her true self rather than include her false identity. He says, “Cesario, come;/ For so you shall be, while you are a man;/ But when in other habits you are seen,/ Orisino’s mistress and his fancy queen” (Shakespeare 70-71). This quote is very important because the Duke loves Viola for who she is, he wants her true self. Wanting her for whom she truly is, shows that Viola had no need to be worried when she washed up in Illyria, it also communicates a healthy well-rounded relationship.