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Old January 5th, 2013, 04:29 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Ethicality of Sun Tzu

Please forgive me a little roundabout while I make my case.

As a Marine combat vet I have always held (and will always hold) a positive view of our armed forces and their mission, while simultaneously hoping that we do not send anymore of my brothers and sisters into harms way needlessly.

It is of course up to personal interpretation when we think about whether a combat deployment is/was necessary or not, with some of our country feeling one way about that deployment and some country feeling the other.

This is the basis of free thought and free speech. May it never be impeded by speech where one group feels more important or right than another group's.

To the point of this thread. Sun Tzu states that all warfare is based on deception. We know that these principles are effective in times of war, as well as in general business practice. Pretend to be weak when you are strong, feign ignorance when you know your adversary's secrets, etc...

Much like the bible has been co-opted, the teachings of SunTzu have been applied to arenas where they happen to be the most effective, but probably not what the author intended.

So, how ethical are you in your daily business? Do you go out of your way to make sure that you satisfy your own ethical code? Your organization's ethical code? Do you try to fit in with what your organization expects regarding your ethical decisions? Or do you rely on your own values when an ethical situation arises?

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“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”

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Old January 5th, 2013, 04:36 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Warfare isn't ethical.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 04:41 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Warfare isn't ethical.
Of course, but yet there are ethics/mores associated with war when it is neccessary. There are numerous international laws of war that "should" be abided by when possible, yes?
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Old January 5th, 2013, 05:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Of course, but yet there are ethics/mores associated with war when it is neccessary. There are numerous international laws of war that "should" be abided by wnen possible, yes?
You mean like Killing Me Softly?
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Old January 5th, 2013, 05:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
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this Sun Tzu bloke.. is that his real name?... he could have made that up...

he could be part of the deception he alludes to...;)
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Old January 5th, 2013, 06:49 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I believe Sun Tzu is more a treatise on leadership than it is on waging war (though it is about that). I think you can interpret it into many aspects of human interaction. But like all such treatise -- the bible included as you point out -- it can be appropriated for other uses. It is vague enough to mean many things to many readers. For instance, in 'Wall Street' it is appropriated by the protagonists to justify greed and the acquisition of their personal wealth at the expense of others.

I dunno ... I happen to feel it can have higher purpose. The sections having to do with the qualities of good leaders and how to lead have great value, as do the passages about contention/conflict. Know your enemy as you know yourself can also be interpreted to mean understand all sides of a contentious situation before you act; pretty ethical to me.

To answer your question, I feel I am ethical in carrying out my daily activities and that I do go out of my way -- often to my detriment -- to exercise my personal code. I am fortunate enough to be in a position, now, where I can influence my organization's expectations for conduct -- this is the benefit (and the price) of leadership.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 09:06 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Anyone who thinks there's art in war needs to be attacked.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 09:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Anyone who thinks there's art in war needs to be attacked.
I agree

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Old January 5th, 2013, 09:42 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Most of the problems of the world can be explained by one word.

GREED

The craziest part of it all is that no, you can't take it with you when you die so why in the heck kill people over it.

Those obsessed about money are a sad bent twisted lot indeed. There I said it.

I think I am the only ethical person left in the world.

Moses had it right when "He" carved "Thou Shalt Not Kill" on that rock....

This is no place to be talking about war.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 09:46 AM   #10 (permalink)
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this Sun Tzu bloke.. is that his real name?... he could have made that up...

he could be part of the deception he alludes to...;)
+1 Now there's a real thinker ^5
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Old January 5th, 2013, 09:49 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Ethics is not static. We dont suddenly develop an ethical stance. Its is always changing though our experiences and actions.

plus it is slightly not contextual to apply an ancient Chinese idea to modern business.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:00 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Have any of you boys read the book by chance? Or is the title just chafing your behinds?
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:03 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Thread locked soon.....wait for it......
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Thread locked soon.....wait for it......
+1
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:41 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Of course, but yet there are ethics/mores associated with war when it is necessary.
I see it more as public justification through lies.

It's shame thread like this end up being locked, they're a lot more interesting than most.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:44 AM   #16 (permalink)
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first we must appear weak
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:44 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Not locked yet, methinks.

There is a continuoum of competition that runs to conflict and ultimately to the ultimate conflict, war. The principles of sun tzu can be applied in any situation where competition of any sort exist, although I believe he was specifically intending his observations as war observations. The rules of athletic conflict give way to business ethics and laws, then ethics and ultimately morality, as the stakes of the conflict grow, as pointed out above. What is acceptable in war is not acceptable in an athletic competition, although both are competition. I think most would agree that war or a physical fight, is moral when forced upon a nation or individual, and no reasonable alternative for non-violent resolution exists, or when the threat of aggression toward oneself or a nation is imminent. In this context, war, when properly undertaken is a struggle for survival. Ethics, morality, rules, laws--none matter one whit if you are destroyed either as an individual or a nation. Ultimately, a nation or individual has to come to terms with survival by "unethical" means or allow itself to be destroyed, secure in the rightness of its ethical decision not to use unethical means.

The next phase of discussion gets into politics and religion, taboo topics here, so I/m heading to my shop to file on some frets or something.

Good topic Chad, as former police with street violence experience, I'm sure it amuses you as much as I how glibley some can make sweeping pronouncements on life-and-death struggle.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:47 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Have any of you boys read the book by chance? Or is the title just chafing your behinds?
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Thread locked soon.....wait for it......
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+1
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I see it more as public justification through lies.

It's shame thread like this end up being locked, they're a lot more interesting than most.
Sun Tzu's treatise or philosophy, whatever you want to call it, is about human thought and behavior simply applied to war and to leadership during war. This thread is not about anything that should merit being locked, it is about how we see ourselves in relation to others and how that perception guides our interactions in regards to ethical behavior.

I posed this question after a few pints last night, but it is a topic that I have great interest in. I mean, it was my thesis topic that has now expanded into my dissertation after all.

The basic idea of this thread is that it is not only our personal values that influence our ethical behavior, but also (and possibly most influential) the context of the situation that determines what we will and won't do. What organizations and society expect from us is often a stronger pull than what we expect from ourselves.

No lock, just good, interesting philosophical conversation here.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 10:55 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I only +1 the lock comment simply because I anticipated it to be so. I believe there is a great deal in those writings of value to human interaction and leadership (as you suggest). My comment about asking if people who were riled by the topic had read the book was simply my way of expressing frustration that so often people get hung up in the book's cover and not actually having read -- and thought about -- the content. Obviously, Chud, you have. I would be interested in reading your dissertation when it is done. And if you're going to interview 'leaders' on these topics, would be glad to participate if you so deem. In this forum, I am truly often moronic. But in other places, I believe I know a thing or three.
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Old January 5th, 2013, 11:00 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I have read it, in fact I took a whole Jan term course on it in the mid '80s , jointly taught by a business prof and a military history professor, with several guests from major investment banks, the pentagon etc.
It was a interesting experience, what I took away was the concept that open conflict was best avoided, and much of what both the military and business try to do with force/ bravado could best be accomplished covertly. in some ways the current conflict/ financial crisis has born this out.
This of course opens a whole bag of nails on the OPs original question, where do you draw the line? I think each person has their own definition of " justifiable" when it comes to safety both physical and economic, it's the variation in this definition that leads to conflict .
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