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Latest Trend in Corporate America Finds Company Executives Getting Philosophical

Aired September 1, 2000 - 8:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Finally tonight, the latest trend in corporate America finds company executives getting philosophical.

CNN's Garrick Utley has more on the new management fad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lou Marinoff says he knows what is missing in our lives: philosophy.

LOU MARINOFF, AUTHOR, "PLATO NOT PROZAC": What we offer people are philosophical insights, systems and methods, basically tools that they can take away to help them manage or resolve their ordinary daily problems.

UTLEY: Of course, outside the classroom, in one of Lou Marinoff's public discussion groups in New York City, the philosophical talk can soar above those daily problems in the search for the meaning of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much freedom are we going to be allowed to take with other's freedom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it freedom if you take a drug knowing that the drug is going to make you think the way the drug wants you to think?

UTLEY (on camera): Ah, the questions of the mind. Writers, thinkers and modern day gurus have never been shy about advising us on how to lead the better, more fulfilled life; from the bible and other religious teachings, to the insights of psychology. Now philosophers are saying it's our turn, again. But then, theirs has been called the second oldest profession.

(voice-over): Lou Marinoff is leading an effort to turn philosophers into one-on-one talk therapists, counselors of wisdom.

MARINOFF: One might ask what philosophers can we use in marriage counseling? Well, there are quite a number. If, for example, one finds that one's marriage is a power struggle, then, again, Thomas Hobbes is very useful, because his philosophy of restoring balance in a civil polity is actually analogous to restoring balance to a marriage. So one can apply his ideas of conflict and resolution. UTLEY: There is no state license required to be a philosophical counselor, but Marinoff offers a two-day training course for those who hold a masters degree or a Phd in philosophy -- 58 philosophers in 19 states have set up their own practices.

BRITNI WEAVER, PHILOSOPHY STUDENT: I think with philosophical counseling, we move more in that direction of providing people with answers, as opposed to just different perspectives.

UTLEY: And yet, ask critics who are trained therapists, what qualifies a philosopher to counsel someone who has real emotional problems?

MARINOFF: I am not trained to be a doctor, and I am not attempting to make diagnoses of my clients. If I suspect that my client's problem is beyond the scope of philosophical practice, naturally, I'll refer him or to an appropriate practitioner.

UTLEY (on camera): Philosophers, of course, are always questioning each other, as well as everything else in life. In ancient Rome, Cicero said of his brethren, "There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it."

Still, what may sound "ridiculous" to some, makes sense today to those who were once skeptics.

(voice-over): Is there a more skeptical crowd than salesmen and women, who have heard it all, listening to a motivational speaker?

TOM MORRIS: I am going to go back and see what Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, Confucius, La Tzu, St. Thomas of Aquinas, Descartes -- what did all the great thinkers come to say about success in our lives?

UTLEY: Tom Morris was a professor at Notre Dame when he discovered that today, philosophy can be marketed; discovered how major corporations, such as Bank One, General Motors, Ford and IBM are ready to pay big bucks to hear wisdom available for free for more than 2,000 years.

MORRIS: The first condition of success came to us from Aristotle. Aristotle said every human being needs a target to shoot at.

GALE STAFFORD, FMR. IBM SALES MANAGER: I think there is a role for philosophy. You know, we are in such a fast-paced environment that you need to step out and think about what are our goals, what are our objectives, and how can we best achieve them? And so absolutely, there is a role.

UTLEY: And for those who are not earning $20,000 a shot to share their philosophical learning, for those who simply seek meaning, Lou Marinoff and his fellow philosophers are ready.

MARINOFF: People are interested in finding out what is happiness, what is fulfillment, what is liberty, what is tolerance, what should we do as good citizens, what shouldn't we do?

UTLEY (on camera): And you have the answers.

MARINOFF: No, but I have the questions.

UTLEY: As philosophers always do.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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