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Morality and Value Neutrality in Economics: A Dualist View

Li, Cheng (2016): Morality and Value Neutrality in Economics: A Dualist View.

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Abstract

In this paper, we propose a dualist view that economics exhibits the properties of both moral science and value-neutral approach, regardless of the normative-positive distinction. Our argumentation is derived from the understanding that, analytically, economics is a rational choice theory, broadly defined. As implied by this claim, on the one hand, economics behaves as a moral science for two main reasons: all economic theories and policy discussions are necessarily based on some moral premises about means-end considerations; economics as a method of analysis can be and has been applied to explanations of a wide range of moral phenomena. On the other hand, since economists — without being informed of some ethical presuppositions of higher order — cannot deal with the comparisons among different value criteria, their approach remains neutral regarding judgmental positions, which should be given a priori to make economic enquiries possible. Ultimately, by this view we reconcile morality with value neutrality, without slicing the discipline into two branches.

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