A Theory of Marginal Ethics

Abstract This paper argues for a marginal revolution in ethics, following the marginal revolution that marked the beginning of neoclassical economics. Ethics is situational in the sense that it is concerned with increments of values. We are not choosing between all the liberty or all the equality in the world. We are choosing between increments … Continue reading A Theory of Marginal Ethics

In Memoriam Paul Ricoeur (1913 – 2005)

This article presents a global survey of Paul Ricœur’s work which, beyond the diversity of the treated questions and matters, has in fact a deep unity. Having adopted an hermeneutic process which leads him to defend a theory of the narrative identity giving the concept of person of the French Personalists a philosophic foundation, Paul Ricœur proposes a coherent social philosophy which transcends the trationnal opposition between liberalism and socialism.

Une source philosophique de la pensée économique de Carl Menger : L’éthique à Nicomaque d’Aristote

Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School, read thoroughly Aristotle. The influence of the Ancient philosopher upon his own theories of a subjective value and the role of subjectivism has been recognized by commentators, from Oscar Kraus to Barry Smith. Nevertheless, its philological proof has not yet been given. This is what we intend to do in this article by establishing the first accurate correspondence between the manuscript annotations left by Menger in his copy of the Nicomachean Ethics and his own copy of his Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre (1871). For this purpose, we explored the major Menger Archives kept in Japan since 1922 and little examined ever by researchers. Menger upheld the theory of essence and also the scale of goods – “to survive – to live / to live for the good” – common to Ancient Greek thought, yet particularly well illustrated in Aristotle’s works. Menger used these schemes as a means to elaborate his own subjective theory of value that revolutionized late XIXth century economics. This article also outlines why this reading of Menger’s “work in progress” is relevant to a necessary comparison of the two editions of the Grundsätze (1871 and 1923, posthumous and edited by his son).

Les sources du moi. La formation de l’identité moderne, Charles Taylor

In accordance with the hermeneutic approach underlying the works of Charles Taylor, we propose to follow the thread of his argumentation in Sources of the Self. This book is essential for economists because it allows them to question, and even to limit, the validity of the tools they traditionally use when addressing the problems of social justice.

Ethical Requirements and the tarification à l’activité in Hospital

The difficulty for physicians to integrate the ethical criterion of distributive justice in their decision making is partly due to the emotions sparked off by patients’ countenance. The concern for a rational distribution of sanitary resources according to the needs of the community doesn’t match with the emotional intensity of compassion. The gradual integration of fixing a price scale for a given medical activity in hospitals offers the advantage of balancing the influence of spontaneous emotions in the medical decision. Yet, the drawback lies in the favouring of profitability rather than distributive justice.

Economic Writing on the Pressing Problems of the Day: The Roles of Moral Intuition and Methodological Confusion

Economists are often called on to help address pressing problems of the day, yet many economists appear to be uncomfortable about disclosing the values that they bring to this work. This essay argues that two central “folk beliefs” implicitly held by many economists contribute to this. These are, first, that “scientific” economic research precludes ethical engagement and reflection, and, second, that people are fundamentally self-interested in their economic dealings.
It is argued that these folk beliefs are at odds with valid scientific practice, and that they persist largely because of long-standing biases in the profession. The historical development of these beliefs is briefly discussed, with reference to feminist history and philosophy of science. Recent empirical research on ethical intuition, by scholars such as psychologist Jonathan Haidt, also reveals inadequacies in the traditional treatment of ethics as purely a matter of rational principles. These literatures point out the unavoidable importance of social and emotional factors in ethical judgment, and the unavoidable presence of ethical judgment even within “scientific” scholarship.
The tension between caring about the problems facing the world, on the one hand, and writing within the existing culture of the mainstream economics discipline, on the other, is illustrated with examples taken from the works of economists who are concerned about inequality, poverty, climate change, and problems in financial decision-making. The authors discussed include Larry Summers, Jeffrey Sachs, Sir Nicholas Stern, William Nordhaus, George Loewenstein, and Partha Dasgupta. Because of impoverished understandings of moral intuition and methodology, these writings tend to either hide implicit ethical judgments under a smoke screen of invalid “objectivism”, or rely on overly self-interest-oriented or rationalistic moral appeals. Such failure to deal adequately with moral intuition, it is argued, seriously compromises the quality of economic research. It also, unfortunately, may have the consequence of encouraging increasingly self-interested behavior in the populace at large.
The essay argues that improved understandings of the roles of methodology and moral intuition could lead towards more responsible, “strongly objective”, and policy-useful forms of economic practice.

Behavioral paternalism

This article deals with the idea of the performativity of economics. We use the notion of convention in order to emphasize a necessary condition for performativity of the scientific conventions. We show that performativity could be seen as the translation of a scientific convention into the social world. We demonstrate that such a translation needs the scientific concept to take a peculiar form: an empirical one. We study the example of the performativity of economic rationality, which is now a central concept of a new kind of public policy: “nudge” economics.

The social responsibility of firms: An ethical leap across a legal void?, Sophie Swaton

Despite its present-day success story in the field of management, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not a new concept, but one that emerged in the 1950s. One may therefore wonder about such a resurgence for a concept whose interpretations are numerous and sometimes quite opposed to one another. Our hypothesis is that CSR, understood on a very topical functional level, results from a deficiency of substantive law. This gap could also explain the evolution of the historical and conceptual approach of CSR, perceived on a second level: the need to seek a foundation in ethics first, and then in political philosophy. However, such a search for foundations does not necessarily succeed. Nevertheless, far from limiting ourselves to a critical standpoint, we try to propose here a clarification of CSR and all the levels involved, in particular the ethical standpoint, which could be more deeply analyzed.