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For many of us, Christmas is our favourite time of year. The glow of decorations, the harmony of carols, the joy of holidays – all of that is a jubilant context for a warm exchange of gifts even if you don’t believe it’s really Jesus’ birthday, or that he even existed. For many others, this is a period of angst-ridden, retail-driven hell, a frenzy of consumerism that brings out the worst in people.

It’s a phenomenon that calls into question something known as homo-economicus (or economic man) – the notion that we make rational decisions, are motivated by profit maximisation, and pursue self-interest above all else. A brief glance at our Christmas spending – our irrational, profit-depleting, selfless expenditure – puts to bed these classical theories of dollars and (non)sense.

This prevailing belief – that we live in accordance with what’s strictly beneficial for us financially – has prompted the invention of a new term, “moral self-awareness”, which was released a couple of months ago but is due to be expanded upon soon in a paper for the Journal of Business Ethics.

Moral self-awareness is said to be present when you’re conscious of the impact your actions have on society. Pretty straightforward, really. To get to that stage, however, you need to go through the “characteristics of the human moral experience” which, according to the scholars, include shame and guilt.

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