Nicholas Capaldi, the Legendre-SouleChair in Business Ethics and Professor of Business Ethics, has made it his mission to bring ethics and spirituality back into the business world through his teaching and activities.
Capaldi originally attended college to study medicine at the wishes of his parents. “Both of my parents were immigrants, and they believed that studying medicine was the secure thing to do,” Capaldi said. But his academic pursuits soon changed due to one fateful class. “I took a course in philosophy and simply fell in love with it,” Capaldi explained. “Philosophy involved trying to find answers to big questions such as the meaning of life. It also incorporated the study of religion and spirituality, which have been major factors in my life.” Capaldi switched his major to philosophy and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University.
But Capaldi soon found himself questioning the limitations of the field he so thoroughly enjoyed. “An issue involving affirmative action in higher education in the 1970s really changed my way of thinking. I realized that professional philosophy was limiting because it only discussed issues in an abstract fashion that never provided the answers to practical questions. Pointing this out to my peers was looked down upon, so I needed to find an outlet outside of philosophy that would allow me to get closer to what people were facing in real life.”
Having gained insight into the corporate world while in graduate school, Capaldi began to work with private foundations and eventually discovered the world of business ethics, which he sees as a way to remind people of their moral motivations and where they come from. “There is a close connection between private enterprise and religious beliefs,” Capaldi explained. “A free market approach does work and is supported by religion, but only when business leaders have strong religious convictions. The United States has the most successful economy, and its citizens have the most religious convictions. I do not think this is a coincidence.”
Capaldi believes that the way to create a better business society lies in enabling business leaders, in particular Catholic business leaders, to see that it is indeed possible to be both successful and morally conscious. For him, this process begins at the college level where students can be taught ethics along with the major principles of business. According to Capaldi, “It is important for students to be taught how to function in the business world in an ethical way. They are the future business leaders of tomorrow, so it is vital that they develop a good understanding of business ethics.”
Although he has taught at other universities, it wasn’t until he came to Loyola that Capaldi truly felt he was able to make a difference. “Loyola has rejuvenated my outlook and mission in life. Jesuit institutions have had a long-standing commitment to business ethics, and the tremendous support I have received from the administration and university in general has been deeply moving.” This support has allowed Capaldi to undertake his biggest project to date, which he feels will have the most impact on the business world, the Center for Spiritual Capital, which he hopes will become both a national and a regional center for initiating and sustaining dialogue between business leaders and leaders from academia, religion, and government.
“The idea to create a center such as this is not completely new, and we will be doing some of the same things that institutes at other universities do, but what will distinguish us is the fact that we will focus on the business community rather than the academic community. Our goal is to form a partnership with members of the local business community in order to help them resolve their moral and ethical issues.” It is Capaldi’s mission to show the world that business is a crucial and honorable profession and that commerce is vital to our civilization.
“It is my hope that business leaders realize that they have the potential to transform the corporate world into a world that promotes excellence, prosperity, and fulfillment. Ethics and spirituality are key in making this transformation, and together they can help shape the American and world cultures of today and tomorrow.”