Morality and economics   no comments

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Bernard Gert makes the claim that an analysis of morality as a general term can be made, rather than describing the morality of specific societies. ‘From Plato on, moral philosophers have attempted to provide an account of morality. The widespread disbelief in morality is partly due to the fact that no moral philosopher has as yet provided an account of it…The main problem is that morality has not been adequately distinguished from other guides of conduct.’ He suggests that most people make the mistake of thinking that morality is the code of conduct of a specific organisation or society, ‘…that Nazi morality is the code of conduct adopted by true Nazis. Christian morality is the code of conduct adopted by all true Christians.’. However according to Gert this is not what morality is, other factors than morals come in to play when establishing codes of conduct for specific organisations or societies such as political/economic factors, according to Gert morality has a definite content, ‘Morality is a public system applying to all rational persons governing behaviour which affects others and which has the minimilisation of evil as its end, and includes what are commonly known as the moral rules at its core’. He hypothesises that core moral rules exist such as “Don’t lie,””Don’t steal” and “Don’t kill”. Gert’s viewpoint opposes that of the moral relativism approach. However this view aligns well with Kant’s theory of morality as being equated to rationality.

The centrality of the concept of humans as ‘rational agents’ to Gert’s and Kant’s theories fit in well with economic theories that view people in the same way (as rational agents). The assumption of rationality is key in building economic theories ( and demand curves), as the underlying assumption in economics is that ‘people want more of a good thing’- they want to maximise gain. Once the assumption is made that people are motivated to obtain more of a thing then it is possible to start measuring the expected value of certain decisions. Weighing up decisions where multiple actions are possible by choosing the one that maximises the expected gain. In the same way moral decisions could be made by measuring which one brings the most amount of good to humanity. The key point being that in an economic decision the goal is to maximise expected gain to one’s self, whereas when making a moral decision the goal is to maximise gain to humanity, and it could be argued to nature as well.

Written by William Lawrence on November 12th, 2012

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