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The human purpose formula

"Man, and every reasonable being in general, existt as an end in itself, not just as a means for any use for this or that will, but must at all times in all its actions, both towards itself and towards other rational beings at the same time as a purpose to be viewed as."

This modification of the categorical imperative allows a historical cross-section view of ethics in working life. In the working world from antiquity to the working world of the Middle Ages, which actually hardly deserves this term, there was a classic break in the human purpose formula. Humans were misused as slaves and were used solely as a means to serve a personal purpose such as building temples.

The emancipation of the workforce was a centuries-long process that has not yet been completed globally and comprehensively. In some cases, however, it has progressed so far that Kant's human purpose formula is fulfilled. As an abstract case study, an imaginary German medium-sized company from industry is left open.

The great overriding purpose of the company is of course to generate profits in order to grow and survive. At first glance, the employees are again the means and not the end. However, Kant's formula is designed for interpersonal relationships, which is why we dig deeper into the company, namely at the relationship level between employee and boss. Assuming a progressive boss, it can be assumed that such a boss has satisfaction or productivity (which goes hand in hand with it) as the primary goal. His means for this are good working conditions, a pleasant management style and possibly forms of incentives. The generation of a profit through the labor of the employees would only be a desirable side effect here, which is useful for both parties.

This progressive way of thinking does not exist in all companies in the world, not even in all companies in the western world, and unfortunately not even in all DAX companies. However, this approach can be read from more and more corporate principles. A specific description of the relationship between employee and boss as described above can be found, somewhat modified, in the corporate guidelines of Mars Inc.:

Mutual benefit is mutual benefit; mutual benefit is permanent.

We measure the success of our business relationships in terms of mutual benefit.

These benefits can take different forms and do not always have to be of a financial nature. Our goal must be to create competitive conditions, but our activities, whether economic or non-economic, must never be carried out at the expense of our business partners or employees.

Here the employee is not just a means, but belongs to it, implemented in the common benefit, to the end.

The human purpose formula is a very practical ethical-philosophical construct that can still be transferred to the modern world of work.

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