Paper Example on Answering the Question: Can Organizations be Treated as Persons?

Published: 2022-12-26
Paper Example on Answering the Question: Can Organizations be Treated as Persons?
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Nietzsche Organizational behavior
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1543 words
13 min read

Qn. Does it make sense to conceive of an organization (such as a corporation) as a "person?" Of the six thinkers we have studied this session, who would say "yes" (and why), who would say "no" (and why), and what do you say?

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The question of how organizations should be treated is of great importance. Generally, a corporation is an organization. However, a significant issue that arises is whether it is appropriate to consider an organization such as a corporation as a "person." In answering this question, it is crucial to understand the purpose or responsibility of an organization such as a corporation. Consideration of an organization as a corporation is based on the legal framework. Legally, an organization as a corporation is a legal person with specific rights and responsibilities held by the people within it. According to Sheppard (1994), a corporation is both a legal and a moral person with the role of bringing up a culture that every participant in the organization is ethical. The purpose of this essay is to discuss whether it makes sense to conceive an organization such as a corporation as a "person" based on the six thinkers studied in the session to establish who would agree or disagree with supporting reasons.

The Six Philosophers

The six thinkers studied in this session include Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Hobbes, Kant, and Nietzsche. All the philosophers talked about individuals and organizations, and each came up with a different way of viewing people and organizations. Aristotle sees an organization as a state whose highest aim is to hold people as rational and lead a sensible life. People should live virtuously by respecting themselves and others in their actions and thoughts (O'Meara, 2015). Therefore, organizations ought to aim at achieving the good of its members. Companies should help the people in them to lead a rational life and become more virtuous. Based on the arguments of an organization as a political person, Aristotle would say 'yes' that it makes sense to conceive an organization such as a corporation as "person." In this case, Aristotle would view the corporation as a moral person whereby the leaders have a role to lead others in a rational and virtuous life. Aristotle would also agree to this notion because a person as a political animal must choose to be part of others. An organization as a corporation is part of the people within it, and the people are part of the corporation. The organization depends on the people, and the vice versa is true. When the organization is destroyed, the people are also destroyed just like a human person who dies both soul and body. Therefore, it makes sense to conceive an organization as a person where the whole or the state exists because of its parts.

Nietzsche views the organization concerning a well-functioning individual. Just the way a well-functioning person would live, a well-functioning organization would do the same. Nietzsche compares an organization with a slave or a noble person. Nietzsche favors an organization to be the great type of person who evaluates oneself as good. Therefore, organizations should be organized by ensuring the leaders determine a culture of fostering nobleness. It is a practice that works to the positive of both the noble and slave person. With a culture of nobleness, the organization will promote togetherness between the slave and the virtuous. Organizations can also be organized as democratic models where the nobles do not exploit the slaves. Harm should be avoided, and contentedness is promoted. Nietzsche would say 'yes' to that it makes sense to conceive of an organization such as a corporation as a "person." A corporation will be considered as a noble person or a slave. As a gentle person, the organization as a corporation will pursue a culture of nobleness where every individual work towards a common goal or purpose in the company. As a slave person, an organization such as a corporation will promote a democratic model where harm is avoided, and the promotion of content is valued.

In his account on individuals and organizations, Mill found out that the history of organizational leadership has done away with the monarchial form where the rights and freedoms of persons are not guaranteed. With the rise of the democratic way of the command, an organization is viewed as individuals will need that should be protected. As long as a person behaves in a manner that does not harm others, society should not interfere with the legitimate behavior of such an individual. Such a person promotes happiness which is the avoidance of harm and experience of pleasure (O'Meara, 2015). Based on Mill's account, he will say 'yes' that organizations such as corporations can be conceived as a "person" with fundamental freedoms provided by the law including freedom of conscience, and speech among others. The democratic form of leadership requires every person to have protections from the prevailing opinions and feelings of the many in society to avoid adverse impacts on the ordinary associations with one another.

Plato views the relationship between an individual and an organization based on justice. According to Plato, judgment is not good by itself or in itself. There is no intrinsic value in fairness or seeking truth. Only the effects of justice are beneficial for preventing some evil things happening. Plato says that it is not different between a just and an unjust person. Both behave the same with time. What is only to the state is also only to the individual and the vice versa is true. Plato will say 'yes' to that it makes sense to conceive an organization such as a corporation as a 'person.' What is just for the organization is just for the individuals within it. By relating a well-functional person to a well-functioning organization, Plato notes that leaders in an organization expect well-functioning persons to assist the organization to function properly. Conceiving the organization as a 'person' makes sense as meeting the people's needs is meeting the organizational needs. The effects of just actions are beneficial to the corporation as a 'person' and the individuals within the company.

Kant's argument on the relationship of individuals and organizations is that people are rational beings with a hypothetical ideal state of 'kingdom of ends' as formulated in the categorical imperative. Organizations are also 'kingdom of ends' where the corporation abstracts itself from the personal differences between the individual and other people to achieve a universal formulation of an idea. All the people in the organization will work based on the universal idea. Unity in the organization is achieved when everyone takes the same action. Kant will say 'yes' to conceive an organization such as a corporation as a 'person' since the company makes ideas that support a common action by all. As a 'person' the corporation must promote unity for every individual within it. As a moral person, the corporation acts as a rational agent that respects the personal differences and supports a universal idea that considers every individual in the organization.

Hobbes states that the purpose of an organization is to preserve the lives of its members and promote a content life. For human nature, people do not equal physically, but practically they can be equal. This situation makes a person feel at risk and wanting to fight with others and steal from others. Every person tends to be war with the other in the effort of seeking self-preservation (Tong, 2014). The continuous state of war of persons is what discourages organizations to employ others in the industry to a state beyond self-preservation. Therefore, self-preservation is a factor that will make organizations be at war with others within it, and this creates a perpetual fear of other people. Hobbes will say 'no' to the argument that it makes sense to consider an organization such as corporation as a 'person.' Considering itself as a 'person,' an organization such as a corporation will not want to employ people to a state beyond self-preservation that may compromise its security and life of its members.

My Say

Considering the views of the six philosophers discussed above, I would say that it makes sense to conceive an organization such as a corporation as a "person" because the firm has similar duties to that of an individual. A corporation is considered legally as "person," distinct from its owners, and it can own assets, hire workers, pay taxes, borrow money, loans and enter into contracts. Just as stated by Sheppard (1994), organizations are moral "persons" with privileges, rights, and duties accorded to any moral person. I will support the views of Kant, Aristotle, Mill, Plato and Nietzsche who view the organization with similar characteristics as a natural person. There is a direct relationship between a well-functioning individual and a well-functioning organization. A well-functioning organization such as a corporation will act to promote the well-being of others; seek a culture of nobleness, rationality and virtuous life as well as justice that benefits all.


Sheppard, Jerry (1994), The Corporate Moral Person: The Organization's Personality and Its Board. Journal of Business & Society, 7 (2): 151-164.151.

O'Meara, W. (2015). The Aristotelian Principle in Mill and Kant. Athens Journal of Humanities & Arts, 2(1), 9-18.

Tong, S. (2014). History versus nature: A reading of Aristotle, Hobbes, and Heidegger. Doctoral Dissertations.

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