At a recent IT Management Applications class, a student asked the professor if it was possible to double major in accounting and information technology management, both of which are offered through the business school. In response, the professor reminded the student that Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business encourages students to develop their talents in areas outside of business, and as such, it does not allow students to double major within the college.

In fact, many non-business majors (and even some business majors) don’t realize that, by the time students graduate from Mendoza, they’ll have taken half of their classes outside of the business school. To take advantage of this, many business students choose a second major from in the College of Arts and Letters or the College of Science.

Personally, I chose to major in both accounting and philosophy, a combination which is fairly unique even for Notre Dame.  Usually when I inform people of my choice of majors I get a response such as “That’s…interesting” or “Aren’t those two complete opposites?”  My business school friends think I’m crazy for caring about philosophy, and I actually had a philosophy professor try to convince me to drop the business major saying, “Margaret, I just don’t want to see you sell your soul to business.”

It is precisely the negative attitude that members of each field have towards the other that has fueled my interest in studying both.  In fact, I am most interested in studying where the two overlap, namely, the philosophical foundations of business and its proper role in society.  “Business has philosophical foundations?” you might ask.  Let me explain.

In the REPUBLIC, Plato says that “a city comes to be because none of us is self-sufficient, but we all need many things.”  One main way in which men depend on each other is for the provision of physical needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.  This provision is necessarily accomplished through a system of exchange, hence the rise of economy.

Currently, we live in an economic system that accomplishes this end through free markets in which people organize themselves into entities owned by individuals or groups that work to provide society with a product.  Given that this system is what is studied in business schools, I will refer to it simply as “business.”  Because business facilitates the exchange of products that satisfy our needs, it fulfills a fundamental role in the function of society and therefore reasonably should be studied.

Unfortunately, as my professor’s comment above shows, many academics treat business with a sense of disdain, at best considering it to be a necessary evil.  Though I agree that there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of business in modern society, business as a system is not inherently bad.  It merely needs to be limited to its proper place.  (By this I don’t mean it should be excessively regulated by government.)  Therefore, I think there is room within the philosophical discipline for the study of the role of business in society and the ways in which our economic system can be adapted to encourage business to assume its proper role.

Similarly, I think that too often today the philosophical study of business is reduced to business ethics.  Ethics is very important, especially in light of the corporate scandals that have made big news in recent years.  If philosophy limits its consideration of business to establishing a framework for ethical decision making, however, it ignores the more fundamental discipline that I mentioned above.

In order to properly study the role of business, I think it is important to have a thorough understanding of the way the economic system currently operates, particularly given the fundamental rules that govern markets and the way in which many people devoted to business think.  For this reason, I have decided to pursue a major in both fields.

Margaret chills in Gabz’s room. A lot. Contact her at