Today the University of Deusto named the philosopher Adela Cortina Doctor “honoris causa” by the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Deusto Business School. Her contribution to science and society through teaching and research in the field of ethical business are some of the reasons why she has been granted this honour.
The University has also emphasized her extraordinary contribution to the ongoing dialogue between philosophical-humanist approaches and economic and organizational development. With this award, which was delivered at the Deusto Business School centenary celebration, the Director of the ÉTNOR Foundation, Business and Organisations Ethics, she became the first woman to receive a Doctorate honoris causa from the University of Deusto.
Fernando Gomez-Bezares, Professor of Finance at Deusto Business School, was in charge of delivering the "Laudatio", an overview of the relationship between ethics and economics, both in the past and today. Although some professors and researchers in Economics forget it nowadays, the two are inextricably linked and their current expressions in the business world lie in the concepts of Sustainability or Corporate Social Responsibility.
Prof. Gomez-Bezares spoke on what Adela Cortina calls “civil society ethics” and which is an attempt to provide ethical standards for a pluralistic society, assuming moral minimums, which serve as a base to work towards a fairer society. In this regard, Cortina believes that man can be endowed with moral principles stemming from rationality, dialogue and cordiality, which can serve as the base for minimal ethics and then be applied in civil society. These ethics are based on justice and compassion, which she calls cordial reason.
These ideas of ethics scholars and disseminators are what, according to Fernando Gomez-Bezares, should help us to achieve a world where men “behave better with ourselves, our contemporaries, upcoming generations, the world surrounding us…, acting with justice and with compassion, especially towards the most disadvantaged. Adela Cortina has contributed a great deal in this sense”, he concluded.
Lectio by Adela Cortina
Adela Cortina then took the floor, and in her “lectio” speech recalled the goal that La Comercial has had since its origins in 1916: the training of business executives, equipped with a university background and ethical values. She went on to focus on the current responsibility that universities have: educating people and citizens.
She believes that in complex societies, where the economy is a key factor, universities have to train good professionals, and not just technicians. It is required by the very nature of university work, which involves preparing efficient professionals with a desire for truth and sense of justice, knowledge transfer, nurturing the habit of free deliberation, and the promotion of research that breaks new ground for an ethical economy.
Cortina added that these new paths demand strengthening the real economy as opposed to the financial one, and assuming the conviction that the economy is not only the science that solves shortages, but is also the one that aims to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities, converting the reduction of inequality into a path to growth. She also believes that social and solidarity economy models should be promoted, as well as pushing corporate social responsibility from an ethical perspective, creating an inclusive economy; without forgetting to respect nature for the common good of all, among others.
Adela Cortina feels that these proposals are valuable both for economics and business ethics, which can be shared by civic ethics advocates, as well as by proponents of high ethics, such as Christianity. Both of them have respect for the dignity of man and the value of taking care of nature at their core. Therefore, she defends that they must work side by side to build an economy and a company at the service of people and nature, standing up for positive sum games, never for zero sum ones.
Address by Jose Maria Guibert
The Rector of the University, Jose Maria Guibert, gave the closing speech, who recalled that humanists occupy a prominent place among the people to whom Deusto has awarded the doctor honoris causa. He assures that it is no coincidence because philosophy is of key importance in university duties; and ethics play a special role in philosophical tasks.
The University of Deusto has made a very important commitment to ethics in the last decades. Up to thirty-five generic competences have been developed in the Deusto educational model. Each degree programme chooses and prioritizes among them according to their professional profile. Some of these competences, such as a sense of ethics and those related to the promotion of human rights, a culture of peace and democratic values, are present in all degrees. It is guaranteed through the “Module of Human Education in Values” that includes two compulsory subjects, one of which is “Civil and Professional Ethics” that is taught in fourth year. This subject is studied by 1350 students per year, which means 202,500 hours of work devoted to reading, writing, debating, reasoning, analysing and evaluating ethical issues related to their career and building a fairer society.
This course on University of Deusto ethics and values is also present in Master’s degrees, monographic courses, training sessions, seminars, research, publications and dissemination activities, as well as in the way in which the University is organized. In the specific case of Deusto Business School, its hundred years of history reflect the constant interest in including humanistic values in economics and business education.
Four milestones show this constant effort. During the opening speech at La Comercial in 1916, it was mentioned as one of the key points that should characterize the new institution “to train well rounded people, teaching the moral values that they should apply in business.” Forty years later, when the ESTE was founded in San Sebastian, one of its mottos was “training people rather than technicians". Following this tradition, a few decades later, the degree in “Humanities: Business” was promoted at the San Sebastian campus. This year, coinciding with the Deusto Business School Centenary, the “Philosophy, Politics and Economics” degree programme began, which aims to prepare professionals with a comprehensive and humanistic vision of political and economic dynamics.
Other initiatives such as the seminars organized by the Centre for Applied Ethics, the socio-economic development model proposed by the Basque Institute of Competitiveness -Orkestra or the activities carried out by the Institute of Cooperative Studies and DeustoBide -School of Citizenship, among others, are also a part of these four significant milestones. In short, the University of Deusto is committed to the training of professionals in the fullest sense of the term.
“At Deusto we take ethics and the promotion of human values seriously. It is not a question of marketing, reputation or institutional image. We must combine the training of professionals who meet the needs of an increasingly competitive market with a good background as citizens who see their profession as a service to social purposes for the common good, constantly aware of the responsible use of means and the social consequences of their actions”, the Rector said.
The Rector thanked people like Professor Adela Cortina who, throughout her career has encouraged and participated in many debates, using humanizing values to enhance the good in real life. A long and extensive task of intellectually supporting a multitude of social agents, including many from the business world, whom she has helped to make aware of their environment. She has become an example for many who want to bring ethical values into their personal and professional life.
Jose Maria Guibert’s speech closed the academic ceremony marking the highest honour in which the traditional university attributes were conferred upon Adela Cortina: the medal as a distinction and sign of her inclusion in the University of Deusto; the signet-ring as an emblem of the privilege to sign and seal, and as a symbol of union with science; the book that “you should spread and develop”; the honoured ceremonial cap, ancient and venerated distinction of the magisterium and traditional award in Academia for the work carried out. All these honours finished with the traditional fraternal embrace from the Rector.