On Nihilism

The Character and Culture Research Group is a new project. It has arisen from a convergence of interests around virtue ethics, and in particular from a shared belief that virtue ethics may have a valuable contribution to make to the way that we understand a series of issues today. The CCRG will combine both theoretical and applied research with initiatives in a number of fields related to work, the workplace, well-being, and sustainability. However, in order for virtue ethics to make a contribution here, we believe its central concepts need to be reviewed and perhaps revised in the light of contemporary philosophy, science, and political economy.

Its focus will be on the following projects and lines of research.

At the practical end, research in the CCRG will lead to initiatives based around virtue and character that aim to move the culture of organisations away from rule based ethics, governance, and performance metrics – because they may not be the best way to achieve the levels of performance the organisations want.

Evidence increasingly shows that people who are ‘happier’ also perform better at work, especially where work contributes to this sense of well-being. It is not a new idea, and if it is not to be a naïve exercise, the basic concepts involved need themselves to be reviewed. At the forefront here is the concept of work itself.

Classical models of work based on large industries are still valuable in part, but no longer tell the whole story. Similarly, the neoliberal model which understands work in relation to human capital reflects much of our experience today, yet it is both limited (some would say damagingly so), and rapidly changing. It seems to us that our understanding of what we are doing when we work needs to be thought through from the bottom up.

Research into this question will go on alongside research into virtue ethics, and in particular the concepts of virtue, character, and culture. This will feed into practical initiatives designed to have an immediate effect on the culture of organisations, and thereby their success in meeting their own objectives – not just in the short term, but sustainably.

The CCRG has been set up by Kelvin Clayton, Andrew Hill, and David Webb. It is working in partnership with the management consultancy, Memeology.

Kelvin completed his PhD in Philosophy at Staffordshire a few years ago, with a thesis examining the emergence of social order.

Andrew Hill is the Director of Memeology, and completed his MA in Philosophy recently. His work focused on virtue ethics and the question of work.

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