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Philosophy of Management

Volume 11, Issue 3, 2012

A Unique Role for a ‘Philosophy of Management’

Steven E. Wallis
Pages 67-99

The Right Tool for the Job
Philosophy’s Evolving Role in Advancing Management Theory

In this paper, I build on Wittgenstein’s metaphor of a toolbox to introduce the metaphor of ‘tool confusion’ – how differing conceptual constructs may be applied, or misapplied, to one another and the effect that such applications have on the advancement of management theory. Moving beyond metaphor, I investigate a theory of management through two specific philosophical lenses (Popper and Lyotard). This analysis tests both the theory and the philosophies with regard to how each philosophy may be applied as a tool to advance theory towards more effective application. Preliminary conclusions confirm that the application of partial philosophies is not as useful as the application of complete philosophies. Deeper contemplation, however, suggests that there is no upper limit to the completeness of philosophies. Thus, the problem of completeness is inescapable. In place of completeness, I explore the use of perceptual tools that are more specific, foundational and concise. Engaging in a second investigation, I use structures of logic (circular, linear, branching and co-causal) to investigate the subject theory. This investigation suggests at least two important insights relating to the structure of theory and the fuzziness of theory. Combined, these investigations and related conversations suggest rigorous methods for advancing theories and a more normative role for the philosophy of management that will support the accelerated advancement of management theory and practice.

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