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Is Adam Smith's Moral Philosophy an Adequate Foundation for the Market Economy?

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Abstract

Alasdair MacIntyre argues that the Enlightenment ideology, which includes Adam Smith’s moral theory, lacks any sense of telos and will, therefore, fail in the long run. This article accepts MacIntyre’s challenge and examines Smith’s moral philosophy arguing that Smith did not completely disgard a telos-based moral philosophy. Human nature, custom, and habit are only part of Smith’s moral framework, which does have touches of an Aristotelian-based virtue ethics that seeks the perfection of people. From this assertion, the question arises whether a Smithian based moral theory is a sufficient foundation on which markets can thrive. The affirmative response to this question leads one to ponder what value a Christian-based moral system adds to the viability of the social order. Several responses to this question are offered, but the position that one takes on this question will depend on the theological tradition from which one comes.

James Halteman, "Is Adam Smith's Moral Philosophy an Adequate Foundation for the Market Economy?" Journal of Markets & Morality 6, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 453-478


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