Ethics and Economics: An Internal Relation
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The relationship between ethics and economics in the modern age is typically viewed as external. This view is most usually articulated in the notion that for economic relations to be ethical, an ethic must be imposed; otherwise, economic relations are amoral. I try to show how the relationship is actually best explained by adopting an explanatory framework of inter-dependent arising, according to which the emergence and development of both ethical and economic relations is a matter of mutual determination. Ethical values emerge in the course of developing economic relations and, in turn direct or at least implicate economic relations. The consequences of a such a view, however, are that exchange values inform moral concepts (e.g., of what is morally owed to members of a community) and moral concepts help frame economic ones. I offer an argument that starts with a description of a historical relationship between two disparate cultures (English and Iroquoian). The interactions between these cultures were determined initially by trade and then military interests. These interests eventually underwent pressure to evolve into legal and even religiously informed arrangements that necessarily involved certain moral values. Using a presupposition analysis, I show how this evolution was no accident and did not depend on some agent(s) imposing the moral values onto the relationship. Rather, those values arose as a matter of course. In conclusion, the paper advances the idea that, since the relationship between ethics and economics is internal, the ethics of economic relations needs to be formulated more in terms of understanding what economic relations are most fundamentally to achieve.