Does your organisation have a moral purpose? If not, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a lesson for you.

AA proposes 12 Traditions to regulate the group’s dynamic.Tradition 2 states “For our Group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving G!d… ,” and proposes a uniquely humanist, secular idea of G!d.

The distinction between secular and humanist is important. Being “secular” is a peculiar, western idea. I am secular if I am unattached to a religious or spiritual tradition; I may or may not be a humanist.

Humanists are critical thinkers. They ask many questions, raise many doubts, value rational explanations, and seek to minimise bias. They learn also this: there is no need to seek a scientific basis for everything. Myth also explains phenomena. Morality is the phenomenon that concerns us here.

The essential myth of morality is simply this: why would anyone question that there is a cosmological analog to metabolism? Human thought, human action, relies on the basic chemical transformations our human metabolism controls. All animals think.

Humans think distinctly. We draw conclusions from our thoughts. One such conclusion: rules are necessary when we meet in a group. These rules — “morality” — firmly define acceptable acts and the expectation that someone will behave to a specific standard.

Morality is a “social fact,” not a “social construct.” A social fact defines how social control over individuals occurs. A social construct is an idea established through cultural or social practice. Social facts and social constructs generally complement each other.

In other words? Human beings are designed to have these expectations. Expectations are unformed resentments: someone will always put social facts into conflict with social constructs by ignoring the standard. Ethics avoid (but do not eliminate) this problem.

Companies, organisations generally, are a collection of individuals, but so are cities, towns, and shopping centres. Morality matters in organisations: individuals are motivated to be moral. Are they?

No, I think not. This is an ancient an ideal, but not a truth. Ir is a well-known noble lie, a foundational myth used to explain the necessity of kindness. People are less motivated by kindness than by self-interest. Organisations are no different.

This is the first part of Hillel’s Riddle: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? (No one.) This is the second part: If I am for myself alone, where am I? (Alone.) Self-interest motivates morality.