The Humanities in Business School

This piece was originally published on November 22, 2013 in the Daily Gamecock, the student newspaper of the University of South Carolina.


As a business student, many of my courses discuss ethical issues in the business world. We’ve explored questions ranging from paying subsistence wages to foreign factory workers to a company’s obligation to be environmentally friendly. I find it disturbing, however, that while many students are able to label something as right or wrong, they can’t articulate why they believe what they do.

This has led many to suggest business ethics courses and workshops are needed. While the necessity of ethics education in the Darla Moore School of Business is quite clear, the correct method through which to explore business morals is not an ethics class. This would become a crude exploration of a deep and complicated subject.

Ethical education is best conducted through the media of literature, history, and philosophy. It is only by facing myriad ethical dilemmas and being forced to make a judgment that we can develop an innate ability to determine right from wrong. These dilemmas can be drawn from real events in history, hypothetical situations in literature, and thought experiments in philosophy.

The problem in business school today is the “academicification” of those subjects that are too subtle to be explored with bullet points and graphs. Business school professors should be less concerned with emulating the technical methods of their colleagues in the sciences, and instead recognize that some things have no exact answer and can only be understood using the subtle intuition the humanities provide.

The technical intricacies of business are important, but they will not be utilized fully unless South Carolina graduates have also developed as people.

I urge the business school’s administration to consider the importance of the humanities in ethics when designing future curricula. Ideally, the University of South Carolina will be known for graduating financiers, marketers, and operations managers, who possess not only exceptional technical skills, but also incredible character.