Neo-classical economics, social science, and moral philosophy

William Sweet, Professor of Philosophy, St Francis Xavier University (Canada)

In contemporary debate concerning ethics, economics, and globalization, it is sometimes asked whether economics can be established, reestablished, or even brought into coherence with normative ethical principles. One response--a response implied by Alasdair MacIntyre's discussion of virtue ethics--is that it cannot. Attempts to ‘moralize' ethics (MacIntyre's position suggests) fail for a fundamental logical reason--that neo-classical economics (like any genuine social science) and moral philosophy are doing two substantially different things. One may be able to moralize economic agents, but one can't ‘moralize' social scientific disciplines like economics.
     I want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this solution, and see whether moral philosophy might be able to play a greater role in discussing neo-classical economics.