Saturday, March 07, 2009

Morality and Economics

Lee Randolph writes the Debunking Christianity Blog HERE:

MORALITY IS ANALOGOUS TO ECONOMICS"

'From what I can see, "morality" is a category of behaviors that result from the self-interest of many agents. It is a form of self-organization of these agents according to their mental capabilities into groups behaving according to implicit rules that will become explicit in humans and has an analogy in economics. Its like circumstances are being guided by an "Invisible Hand". "The Invisible hand" is "an economic principle, first postulated by Adam Smith, holding that the greatest benefit to a society is brought about by individuals acting freely in a competitive marketplace in the pursuit of their own self-interest."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Answers.com 04 Mar. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/invisible-hand)

The difference between Self-interest and Selfishness
I see a lot of people make the claim that Adam Smith was endorsing "selfishness". Selfish is to Self-interest as Revenge is to Justice. While similar in concept, one is harmful and the other is not. Selfish and Revenge are about gaining an advantage, Self-interest and Justice are about maintaining an equilibrium.”


Comment
I have no comment on the author’s ‘de-bunking Christianity’ mission.

Mankind has always lived in societies, as our primate ‘cousins’ did and do. Smith’s Moral Sentiments is about the social basis of morality, the primitive origins of which pre-dates Christianity by hundreds of thousands of years, and is older than the earliest beliefs of the earliest religions. While bones fossilise, beliefs don’t.

Early Hominines (the hominids) were born into groups – they didn’t ‘form’ into groups (as far as we can surmise). The speciation from the Common Ancestor 4-6 million years ago (itself a social animal) was from an existing group of primates, some individuals of which speciated separately into chimpanzees, which also live in groups. What changed for the hominine species was the continuation of development manifested in bipedal postures and walking, growing brain-size and development, intense sociability, and changes in the social arrangements for reproduction to accommodate biological changes.

Given that economic aspects of social life pre-dated commercial society I am not clear how analogous moral behaviours are to economics. Lee Randolph cites a statement in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (see link above), which on this evidence is likely to be unreliable: "The Invisible hand" is "an economic principle, first postulated by Adam Smith”.

Readers will know that The Metaphor was not an ‘economic principle’ that was ‘postulated' by Adam Smith. It has become an ‘economic principle’ and was ‘postulated’ by modern economists since the 1950s, and has nothing at all to do with Adam Smith, nor any of the many other 18th -century authors who used the same metaphor in their literary works.

However, I think Lee Randolph is quite right when the identifies the differences between selfishness and self interest when he writes: ‘Selfish[ness] and Revenge are about gaining an advantage, Self-interest and Justice are about maintaining an equilibrium.

Labels: , ,

0 Comments:

Post a comment

<< Home