THE BLOG
18/10/2013 06:24 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Ethics in Business - "Is the Pious by the Gods Because It Is Pious, Or Because It Is Loved by the Gods?"

Socrates was known for his quest for genuine knowledge and careful reasoning. He cared very little for mere victory over an opponent. This could not have been better demonstrated by his piercing and insightful exchange with the supercilious Euthyphro on the subject of piety. When the young Euthyphro was prosecuting his own father in the courts based on his own conviction of ethical rectitude, Socrates confronts Euthyphro on the whole definition of piety.

In what is now a well documented exchange, Socrates would pose to Euthyphro this, "Is the pious by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" The exchange between Euthyphro and Socrates brought forth the whole theological and philosophical reasoning of, "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it merely morally good because it is commanded by God?"

Is the show of piety a culmination of a list of actions or do the actions in and of themselves exude piety? The depth of this questioning not only brings forth the full force of Socrates' critical thinking, but more forcibly rummages our souls, the souls of our companies and institutions not least that of our nations on what is ethical and what is morally right in all that we claim to do in the name of business, in the name of politics and in the name of the people and of existence itself.

Are we here for a purpose? If so what is that purpose, and who should that purpose serve, and to what end? Who sets the standards to this purpose(s)? Who does of its benchmarks and who is the ultimate judge of this purpose?

In the face of such challenges like should Malaysia sign into the Trans Pan Pacific Agreement with the USA (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/a-response-to-paul-allen-brown-mohd-nizam-mahshar/ ), ( http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/232812), the alleged public information surveillance by the National Security Agency in the USA (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance) , the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh which cost scores of innocent lives of the poor (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/bangladesh-police-fire-garment-factory-protesters) not to mention the collapse of the poultry farm in China which killed some 100 people (http://news.sky.com/story/1098626/chinese-chicken-farm-fire-kills-at-least-100), one cant but ask - have we stopped searching our souls on what really is ethical and by whose standards are those ethics being applied? Is this planet so hungry to fulfil a definition of PROGRESS at the expense of lives and this planet? Do we even know what progress is anymore?

Even as the UK makes strides towards capturing the issues in the financial industry by announcing the banking bill (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jun/19/reckless-misconduct-banking-reform-cameron) , we see dissatisfaction on the streets of Istanbul (http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/turkish-riot-police-blast-protesters-with-water-cannons-tear-gas-in-istanbul-1.1328541) and Brazil (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/tens-thousands-riot-brazil-article-1.1375313). Surely we cannot have peaked the Maslow pyramid of self actualisation as a civilisation, when in a developed country like France a pregnant woman can be attacked causing the loss of her child just because of her belief? (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/19/pregnant-muslim-woman-miscarries-baby-veil-attack_n_3464409.html ). This at a time when there is continued heart wrenching human tragedies in places like Syria, Palestine and amongst the Rohingya in Myanmar (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/rohingya/).

Alas, everyone is fighting for something. Most, when asked, would confess that we are all fighting to be free of some kind of enslavement - be that material or emotional or physical or all of the above. Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University once quoted, "Freedom is to do what is right, not what everyone else is doing".

Against this backdrop, the conversation with Professor Ramadan touched on the whole notion of ethics across the many facets that affect us as humanity -what it really means to business and policy making, to media and legislation. In addition to his many social work, Professor Ramadan is also actively working to inculcate ethics through his new Project, Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Doha (www.cilecenter.org) . Perhaps his work can be best summarised in this statement, "No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interest turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. Nothing must ever lead a person to compromise this principle or faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one." The full interview can be read at this link (http://investvine.com/ethics-in-business-a-conversation-with-professor-tariq-ramadan/)

When the lights of temptation, suspicion, competition, money, status, greed and many such malice shine upon us all, one can't but fall back on what Aristotle said about his teacher Plato when he differed with his point of view, "Plato is my friend, but truth is a better friend". In the final analysis, our very existence will be obituarised by how true we were to pursuing real truth in spite of ourselves!