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  • I'm here to talk about the

  • mysterious disappearance

  • or absence, of what one could

  • call the psychological

  • within the world of

  • modern business, education

  • and life more broadly, but with

  • a particular emphasis on

  • business because that's partly

  • what we're here for. I want to begin

  • my story in ancient Greece

  • fourth century BC, Aristotle

  • the Greeks used to do some things very

  • good,

  • very accomplished, and one of the things

  • they were very good at was philosophy

  • and Aristotle famously

  • defined the goal of every

  • human being as that of acquiring

  • two kinds of knowledge

  • The first kind of knowledge he defined

  • as 'techne', that's where we get our word

  • technical from, and that's

  • all the sort of things that

  • make an economy work, in

  • his day it was ship building, silver

  • mining, you know, archery

  • that sort of thing, and the other

  • form of knowledge that he believed

  • we very much, all of us need

  • is what he termed 'sophia'

  • or wisdom, and that's of course

  • where we get the word philosophy from

  • philo, love, sophia, wisdom

  • He believed that all of us need to

  • spend a considerable part of our

  • lives in the pursuit of

  • sophia, and through

  • pursuing wisdom, we will

  • reach a stage of what he

  • called 'eudaimonia', another

  • complicated Greek word that is often

  • translated as fulfilment

  • we could translate it as happiness

  • but it's a deeper form of satisfaction

  • it's a way of fully exploiting

  • everything that makes us distinctively

  • human. It's a form of happiness

  • in line with our rational

  • natures and eudaimonia

  • is achieved through self-knowledge

  • Aristotle tells us, and it's connected

  • up with knowing who to be friends

  • with, knowing what your purpose

  • in life should be, being part

  • of a community to which you're properly

  • contributing, and other sorts

  • of ingredients like that. So a

  • very important part of

  • the meaning life at the beginning

  • of the Western journey

  • the Western experience, the meaning

  • of life is the pursuit of

  • wisdom. We might also nowadays

  • call it the pursuit of the psychological

  • the psyche of course another Greek

  • word, the interior, the soul

  • the bit of us that is most

  • closely connected up with our emotions

  • and our rational natures

  • Now I want to argue that

  • oddly, despite our accomplishments

  • in so many areas, we've become

  • very bad at the sophia

  • bit of the economy

  • and our human pursuits

  • A lot of the blame has to do with religion

  • because when Christianity descends

  • upon Europe, it sucks

  • up all the interest

  • in the soul, the

  • very word soul starts to become

  • a religious word, and

  • the whole study of the psyche

  • gets imported into

  • religion, and it's not really until

  • the middle of the nineteenth century

  • that suddenly people start

  • to reconsider the

  • psychological, and concepts

  • like wisdom apart

  • from a religious structure

  • So we're still very much in the early

  • days of knowing how to

  • think about ourselves

  • and our interior lives

  • without the particular

  • cast that Christianity

  • gave to the Western mind's

  • exploration of its own

  • processes. Part of

  • the really big problem, part of the reason

  • why we're not so good

  • at reason, we're not so good at

  • the psychological, is this movement

  • that also strikes Western Europe

  • in the 19th century known as

  • 'romanticism', and romanticism's

  • number one concern

  • is the worship of what we

  • would call instinct. Now

  • if there's anybody in the room who's made

  • an unfortunate marriage

  • anyone who's unhappily married

  • picked the wrong person to marry

  • put up your hand, we'll talk about it

  • okay, yes thank you very much.

  • Anyone here who's fallen into

  • the wrong job, who feels

  • they've just fallen in love, as it

  • were, with the wrong job? Okay, we'll come

  • back with that later, but the reason I

  • mention these two things is because love

  • and work are the two constituents

  • of contemporary happiness, also

  • ancient Greek happiness, but they're

  • also the two things that we

  • imagine we can get right

  • simply by instinct. It

  • would be considered very rude to stop

  • anyone and say, 'Why are you getting married

  • to that person?' or, 'Why are you

  • going for that job?' We believe

  • that people's best chances

  • of finding fulfilment comes

  • from not thinking too hard

  • about why they're doing it. We

  • worship instinct

  • and impulse in the two

  • areas where they actually have catastrophic

  • results, which is in relationships

  • and in the pursuit of

  • our talents and our exploitation

  • of our talents within the workplace

  • so romanticism has a lot to blame

  • So what I'm trying to create for

  • you is a picture of how

  • at the dawn of Western civilisation

  • we have this tremendously exciting

  • mission, we can learn to be happy

  • by understanding the mind

  • the psychological part of our minds

  • we can pursue wisdom and that

  • should be the highest goal of

  • human beings. That disappears

  • for a long time and we are left

  • with this romanticisation of instinct

  • Now let me come to the modern

  • world of business, a lot

  • of the reason why business is

  • incredibly unpopular

  • and has come under a lot of suspicion despite

  • the recent conservative government

  • win, the crisis of capitalism is

  • not over. A lot of the suspicion

  • a lot of the reason why businesses routinely

  • become under suspicion, is because

  • they stand accused of selling

  • us bullshit, in other words

  • they stand accused of not

  • selling people the things

  • that they really need

  • in order to have a good life

  • so the phenomenon we know as consumerism

  • is attacked for

  • generating vain desires

  • exciting passions in

  • people which the products

  • that are associated and that

  • are being sold, cannot properly

  • deliver on, and that's a major

  • underlying-, there are other underlying

  • complaints around capitalism including

  • exploitation, environmentalism etc.

  • but if you want to look as it were at the core

  • intellectual complaint

  • it is that we are not buying

  • and selling those things which

  • actually lead to a flourishing

  • life. That if Aristotle walked

  • into the market place as

  • it were, he would not see us

  • spending our energies

  • devoting our energies to those things

  • that really could stand a chance

  • of delivering on happiness

  • These issues have a horrible

  • habit of coming to the fore, I'm

  • sorry if there are people here in the world

  • of advertising but let's go for

  • it, these issues have a horrible

  • habit of coming to the fore around

  • advertising. Think of the concept

  • of brand, much revered

  • within the industry, much maligned

  • outside of the industry

  • What a brand promise is

  • often pegged to are

  • all those things, those

  • higher needs, that are associated

  • with wisdom, with flourishing

  • with the good life, but the actual

  • product that is often being

  • sold is very far

  • removed from the actual

  • promises which are being engaged

  • in order to sell you that product

  • Let me give you a more concrete example

  • remember that famous Campari

  • advert of years ago? It

  • would show, it really struck me, this was my

  • teenage years, Campari were running

  • a massive campaign which would

  • show people hugging, holding

  • hands, hanging out with groups of friendly

  • looking people in beautiful locations

  • and the tagline was always the

  • same, 'Campari and

  • friends', and it was a lovely

  • idea. The problem is, and the reason

  • why people hate consumerism, is

  • that you will end up buying a crate of Campari

  • get it delivered to your flat, sit

  • alone at home and you wouldn't

  • have any friends, and the

  • purchase of those drinks

  • would not in any way have

  • advanced the cause that

  • was really motivating you when

  • you were buying that, which is the pursuit

  • of friendship, which Aristotle in the

  • Nicomachean Ethics devotes

  • an entire chapter to, as one

  • of the root pillars on which

  • happiness rests. In other words

  • Campari was exciting

  • was scratching a desire

  • for something, and it was then not

  • delivering on it, and that's why people

  • sometimes get angry. Remember that advert for

  • Dove soap? There was always a woman

  • lying in a bath looking extremely

  • relaxed and the tagline was something

  • like, 'The road to calm starts

  • here'. Again you buy a crate

  • of Dove soap, get it delivered to your house

  • but actually you're still wracked with anxiety

  • you've still married the wrong person, you're still

  • in the wrong job, the bar of soap

  • is lying unused next

  • to the bath, and you haven't made any

  • progress with one of the major

  • problems of existence, but

  • the soap has been

  • exploiting this, and you know, think of

  • those lovely adverts by Patek

  • Philippe which always show a father

  • and his son and they're hugging