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Spiritual Discernment as a Method of Judgment

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Managing VUCA Through Integrative Self-Management

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This chapter presents the thesis that spiritual discernment is a method to overcome some of the perplexities of the VUCA World (VUCA is an acronym for ‘Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity’). As a concept and practice that originated in a religious context , spiritual discernment was meant to guide difficult choices in life. However, I believe we can learn a lot from it to improve decision-making and a practice of Self-Righteousness in business. The chapter has three parts. First I will clarify the concept of spiritual discernment and give a challenging example of its practice. The second part (2-5) attempts to give it a more philosophical foundation by linking spiritual discernment to Hannah Arendt ’s theory of judgment. The third part (6-7) applies spiritual discernment as a method of judgment and Self-Righteousness to the field of business ethics .

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  1. 1.

    There are of course some interesting exceptions. Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller Emotional Intelligence, studied the older spiritual methods of discernment of spirits before developing his concept of emotional intelligence . His basic assumption is that feelings and emotions help us discern what really matters.

  2. 2.

    Entitled “Thinking and Moral Considerations” and “Some Questions on Moral Philosophy”. Posthumously published in: Arendt H., Responsibility and Judgment, Shocken Books, New York, 2003.

  3. 3.

    E.g. the law could be that all people try to maximize happiness and minimize pain.

  4. 4.

    We will not tackle here the question of democracy in business (see Bouckaert 2010a, b). It may suffice to observe that even in a non-democratic organization a dialogical style of management and leadership can flourish. And vice versa. A democratic organization can be lead by an autocratic leader applying a hierarchical style of management. Formal structures and living culture don’t always coincide.


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Correspondence to Luk Bouckaert .

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Bouckaert, L. (2017). Spiritual Discernment as a Method of Judgment. In: Nandram, S., Bindlish, P. (eds) Managing VUCA Through Integrative Self-Management. Management for Professionals. Springer, Cham.

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