Philosophy and ethics for the real world

The York University Undergraduate Philosophy Student Association (Philosophia) hosted an alumni workshop to help current students get a glimpse into the world ahead.

The event, held on March 20, brought current Faculty of Arts students together with two prominent York alumni. Gordon Lownds (BA ’81), president & founder of Listen UP! Canada, and Neil Shankman (MBA ’94), CEO of REMG Entertainment Corp., shared the history of their careers and the importance of studying philosophy with students present. Lownds acquired his BA in philosophy from York’s Faculty of Arts and completed his MBA at the University of Toronto. Shankman studied philosophy at the University of Western Ontario and then earned an MBA from York University.

Right: Gordon Lownds

"Faculty of Arts students majoring in philosophy know that as they are working towards their degrees they are building and developing skills that will support them in the job market," said Marlin Gold, events & promotions coordinator, Faculty of Arts. "However, many of these students are unfamiliar with the types of jobs that philosophy students excel in upon graduation." 

Lownds and Shankman were asked to share information about the value of the their philosophy degrees and the benefits philosophy has provided to them. Both were asked to bring along a moral or ethical business situation to discuss with the students.  

Lownds told the students that following high school, he worked in a variety of odd jobs including the carnival and as a male go-go dancer before entering university. After graduation, he worked his way up in the retail industry . Lownds advised students to be a "human being rather than a human doing", which he claimed was simple to do with the rational skills taught via a philosophy degree: reading, writing and proposing, following and understanding arguments. The ethical dilemma Lownds presented to the students for discussion involved a situation involving an individual who brings information about a competitor to his current employer. Lownds noted that the information had been obtained through improper channels. 

Shankman described himself as being extremely musical and told students that when he began teaching at the Schulich School of Business, he was known as the “prof by day, producer by night”. Armed with his degree in philosophy and an MBA, coupled with the experience gained when he toured with bands such as Blue Rodeo, he helped start REMG Entertainment Corp. The company is now responsible for the marketing and execution of 90 per cent of hip-hop concerts in Canada.

“Philosophy is not a subject, but rather part of my life and used every single day,” said Shankman. His company was responsible for the 50 Cent concert in Toronto last summer, an event that stirred a great deal of protest. Shankman discussed with the students the ethical dilemma associated with bringing 50 Cent into Canada.

Right: Judy Pelham, chair of the Department of Philosophy (left), with Neil Shankman 

"Interacting with alumni who have attained a philosophy degree has reaffirmed my decision to major in philosophy. After hearing them speak and the moral dilemmas they face in their careers, I have decided to pursue the ethics certificate along with my degree,” said Chantelle Tokarz, a third-year philosophy student in the Faculty of Arts.  

“Everyone always told me that the philosophy world and the business world did not intersect. Gordon and Neil showed us, quite clearly, that these two areas not only intersect, but are somewhat dependant on each other,” said outgoing Philosophia Club President Jeremy Lombardo.

The event concluded with a question and answer period followed by a small reception.

Visit the Department of Philosophy Web site for more information on the program. For more information on the York University Undergraduate Philosophy Student Association, visit the Philosophia Web site.