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Crossing limits: On a similarity between philosophy and entrepreneurship

Philosophy and entrepreneurship are two completely different things. Or are they?


Thomas Macher

development officer, Ulysseus
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 29.08.2023

At first glance, philosophy and entrepreneurship do not seem to have much in common. Compare Socrates with Elon Musk, two individuals that have become for many the epitome of philosophy and entrepreneurship respectively. Most of us would be hard pressed to come up with another pair with less in common than these two.

Here is another example of why, at first sight, philosophy appears to be at odds with entrepreneurship. When people think about the backgrounds of (successful) entrepreneurs, philosophy rarely comes to mind, whereas neurobiology, computer science, space science and the like seem to be immediately applicable to starting a business. Philosophy, on the other hand, conjures up images of a hunched academic with a slovenly appearance sitting in an ivory tower with a pile of thick books.

As someone who holds a PhD in philosophy, I had – cross my heart – for a long time no real notion of entrepreneurship. I thought very similarly about possible commonalities between philosophy and entrepreneurship until I had the chance to get acquainted with the latter as part of my work for the COMPASS project at Haaga-Helia. Only then did I realise that things might not be so simple after all.

In this blog article, I briefly explain how in my view philosophy and entrepreneurship can be interpreted to have the same “program” and, therefore, are – at least from a philosophical point of view – more similar than the majority of us presumably tend to think.

Towards the virtual fringe of things

Attempts to define both philosophy and entrepreneurship in precise terms are controversial, but this does not need to concern us here. What matters in this context, is that both seem to be practices that have to do, in a very particular way, with the peripheral areas of being. While it may be said that philosophy is a kind of movement of thought to the virtual fringe of things, we could describe entrepreneurship as the taking of action to the virtual fringe of things (Hjorth 2015; Massumi 2002).

To be clear, thinking is an activity, too. But the crucial point I want to make is that philosophy, as well as entrepreneurship, can be understood to have the same agenda. They both move beyond the boundaries of the actual. Or put in another way, they both cross the limits of what presently is.

Same agenda, different ways

To make this assertion of a shared agenda more convincing, it seems useful to elaborate on how both concepts move beyond boundaries of the actual. A promising way to do so is to point out another distinction between philosophy and entrepreneurship in addition to the one I established above (i.e., that the first is a movement of thought, and the latter a taking of action).

Namely, philosophy is concerned with the creation processes of individuals, whereas entrepreneurship deals with societal creation processes. Philosophy could be defined as the individuals’ creation processes of thoughts that fictionally anticipate their actualization, while entrepreneurship may be determined as the bringing into being of action in fictional anticipation of value potentials for users to act upon (Hjorth 2015; Massumi 2002).

Or in other (less scholarly) words, philosophy happens when individuals come up with thoughts that entail (at least implicitly) the question “what if this thought was true?”. Whereas entrepreneurship takes place whenever someone performs an action that is designed to bring people to acquire something they deem valuable for some (aesthetic, economic, political, psychological, etc.) reason(s).

Much could still be said about this theme. However, the important takeaway here is that even as I tried to delve deeper into determining the nature both of philosophy and entrepreneurship in the previous passage, their assumed shared agenda – i.e., their moving beyond the boundaries of the actual – remained unaffected by such attempts. Although not proof in the strict sense, this seems to be a strong indication of the fact that such a shared agenda really exists.


Hjorth, D. 2015. Sketching a Philosophy of Entrepreneurship. In T. Baker & F. Welter (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Entrepreneurship (pp. 41–58). Routledge.

Massumi, B. 2002. Parables for the Virtual – Movement, Affect, Sensation. (p. 242). Duke University Press.