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The relevance of philosophy to manufacturing in today's world

Updated on January 1, 2015

Philosophy

The definition of philosophy is broad and dynamic. However, many scholars assert that philosophy is the love for wisdom. It is the activities partaken by people in their search for wisdom while trying to answer important questions in their lives. Philosophy assists individuals to understand their world, how they relate with it and fellow beings. Conversely, manufacturing, by definition, is the art of producing goods and services for domestic use or commercial purposes. It involves the use of (technology) tools, machines, equipment, chemicals and labour force to convert raw materials to finished products/goods. Many scholars argue that philosophy and technology intertwine. They believe that the Philosophy of manufacturing intermarries with the Philosophy of technology that dates back in the (19th) nineteenth century. The main founders of philosophy of manufacturing and technology were Plato, Aristotle, Robert Owen, Martin Heidegger and many others. These philosophers made different philosophies that are even relevant to manufacturing in the modern day world. Here are some examples of how manufacturing relies on philosophies in today’s world.

The art of manufacturing

The art of manufacturing goods in the world of today mirrors the activities that took place during the creation of the universe. Humans adopted the knowledge and skills of manufacturing from the theory of creation. This theory employed the belief of creation, where God (Supreme Being) made the universe and everything that lies in it. Therefore, the human beings bought the idea of creativity and manufacturing and then put it into practice. A famous philosopher, known as Plato engineered the philosophy of technology in manufacturing. According to Plato, technology was the main framework of structure and knowledge that intertwined with the process of manufacturing raw materials into finished products. Technology initiates the process of manufacturing. Plato believed that manufacturing and technology were inseparable since the two were interdependent. In today’s world, Plato’s philosophy of technology is widely used. Many manufacturing plants extremely use technology to increase their rates of producing goods and services. A single failure of machines and equipment (technology) completely impairs the functionality of the manufacturing plant.

In the manufacturing and production sector, capital is a very important factor of production. Money is highly considered when planning for the business. In his writings, Aristotle, in defining economy states it as an art of acquiring and exchanging goods for the case of getting rich. Aristotle pictures out the serving nature of money as very important for the initiation of the process of manufacturing that later leads to trade. In the course of history, many studies have proved that these two roles of money are important. In historical terms of defining money, it not only acts as a commodity of trade but also as a tool of defining an economic man. Therefore, money led to the growth of the spirit of capitalism. This spirit of capitalism is the one that currently motivates entrepreneurs to start manufacturing plants in today’s world. Just as Aristotle asserted, the main target of manufactures is to attain profits, earn money and become rich

Capitalism

In their mode of describing Capitalism, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo put forward that the modern world capitalism is a system where people invest money in a business with the aim of making profits. This philosophy is applied in modern day manufacturing whereby the sole target of the manufacturing plant is to convert unrefined materials into refined products, sell them and earn profits. This is the reason why the functionally of firms today is assessed by its revenue returns. It is also the reason why the founders of some manufacturing companies close them, down immediately, when they note a, serious, decrease in their revenue returns.

The Utopian ideas of Robert Owen

Today’s manufacturing plants have extensively applied the philosophies and utopian ideas made by Robert Owen, a famous philosopher. Robert realized that firms had to make some adjustments in their way of operating in order to generate more profits in the market economy. Owen believed that improving the working conditions of workers/employees increased the productivity of a firm. Today’s manufacturing plants strive to increase their productivity by treating employees well and improving their working conditions. For example, some provide protective clothing to employees; others offer machines in good use while others offer good salaries and other benefits to employees. They pay for their health insurance and provide proper retirement benefits. In addition, many conducted surveys reported that treating employees well increased the productivity of a firm.

In addition, Robert Owen believed that employing children in a firm was injustice and called for punishment by the law. As an example, Owen laid strict rules for the sale of liquor in his store and banished children from work. The world later appreciated this philosophy and started spreading the same gospel, ‘employment of the minorities/ underage children was unlawful’. The formation of labour laws is a good example of the relevance of this philosophy in today’s world of manufacturing. The labour laws prohibit manufacturing companies and any other firm from hiring children below the age of (15) fifteen years.

Philosophers like Rousseau, Voltaire and Marx, contributed abundantly on the aspects of food production. Some philosophical quotes such as “necessity is the mother of inventions”, which were used in the Agrarian Revolution marked important milestones of achievement in the field of food production. The necessity of food in order to curb hunger necessitated for the invention of manufacturing plants that process agricultural products. Today, manufacturing plants make and package different food substances and store them for future use when necessity calls. Others manufacture agricultural supplements such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to boost agricultural production. People have been constantly changing their feeding habits. This change in feeding habits has necessitated for the emergence of manufacturing plants that produce a wide variety of food products. This has led to the emergence of various issues such as vegetarianism, agricultural ethics, biotechnology and many more concerning food production.

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Carl Marx, in his book, The Communist Manifesto identifies two groups of people in the society: the rich and the poor. Marx identifies the rich (bourgeoisie) as those people who have all what they need in life. These rich people attain high living standards at on the expense of the poor. The rich controlled the factors of production. Max had it in mind that one day the capitalist system, which was very oppressive, would end. People would embrace communism, where there would be justice for the poor. In today’s world, Marxist Philosophy of communism is widely applied in manufacturing. The philosophy is used to formulate labour laws that prevent employees from being exploited by the rich (owners of manufacturing plants). In addition, workers have joined unions and trade organization that facilitate reforms. Through collective bargaining and use of strikes, workers have gone a step ahead in achieving a lot in the industrial and business sectors. Therefore, the above-mentioned ideas serve to illustrate how philosophies are relevant to manufacturing in today’s world.

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— Daniel Avedon

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