People working in the business sector usually claim that their decisions are based on rationality. Almost everybody makes business decision every day. Although it has been emphasized by numerous economists of the 20th century – if not earlier – that a decision culture based exclusively on rationality has a limited potential, it is still considered “polite” to give rational reasons for your decisions.
The latest crises in global financial business seem to prove the economical theories developed since the 20th century. To be sure, complex systems can be described rationally, but when far-reaching decisions have to be made, rationality is apparently only of minor importance. The course of the current crisis in particular shows almost in a “student model” way how decision processes work. The real cause has less to do with reasons consciously given and much more with emotions like fear, striving for power, and avoiding shame.
If we assume that it was based on rationality, the question must be asked if it could not all have been prevented before it happened, or else: why is it apparently so difficult to get the crisis under control now?
There is reason to assume the decisions have not been based on rational arguments alone. I wonder if maybe other arguments, such as “greed” in looking for a fast profit or “lower” motives prevailed. Were the brains blown out by greed? (Citation of our Federal Minister of Finances).
Based on a closer inspection of decision processes, the symposium Brains or Guts – On the Biology of Business Decisions will discuss this problem. In particular, we want to find out to what extent rationality can influence our decisions.
In doing so, we will take a closer look at a rather new field of research: “Neuro Economics”. When making decisions, the brain basically tries to give itself a reward. Since altruism, too, has to be considered a natural power, neuro biologists today emphasize that the concept of „homo oeconomics“ is no less archaic than the theory of “homo homini lupus”. Seen under this light, we can nowadays represent man in a much more optimistic way.
There is no reason to fear the decline of moral, ethical or social value, just because we do not derive it from an allegedly pure intellectual – supernatural world. Instead, we are driven by the assumption that the study of biological conditions human decisions are based on can avoid false expectations and fatal misunderstandings about what is important for man in the globalized, economic world.
That is what the symposium we are organizing at Frankfurt University is about:
The symposium Brains or Guts – On the Biology of Business Decisions on October, 19th, 2009 from 12.00 to 18.00 hours in the General Assembly Hall on Campus Bockenheim continues the series of discussions with the neurologist Gerhard Roth. It is about the paradigm shift from mental self-reflection to the neuro-biological conditions of philosophical thinking at the Goethe University of Frankfurt.
The themes and main presentations discussed in the previous two seminars can be found in the works published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen: Gerhard Roth and Klaus-Jürgen Grün, The Brain and Its Liberty: Contributions on the Neuro-Biological Basis of Philosophy (2006, 3rd Edition, 2009) also: Klaus-Jürgen Grün, Michel Friedman and Gerhard Roth De-Moralization in Legal Contexts – Standards of Neurology in Criminal Law (2008).
(Translated by EG)