What is a tiger for?

Still more from John Kay’s Obliquity:

“For years I struggled with the idea that if a profit could not be the defining purpose of a corporation, there must be something else that must be its defining purpose. If business did not maximise profit, what did it maximise? I was making the same mistake as those victims of the teleological fallacy who struggled for centuries with questions like ‘What is a tiger for?’ Tigers, as we no understand, are not the product of any purposive design … Tigers are good at being tigers because adaptation has hones them to be well adapted to the daily life of tigerdom. There is not more, or less, to it than that.


A good oil company is good at being an oil company, just as a good university is good at being a university, a good harpist is good at playing the harp and a good dentist is good at filling teeth. There is no defining purpose to these activities distinct from the activities themselves.