Aristotle’s Difficult Relationship With Modern Economic Theory

Foundations of Science 13 (3-4):265-280 (2008)
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This paper reviews Aristotle’s problematic relationship with modern economic theory. It argues that in terms of value and income distribution theory, Aristotle should probably be seen as a precursor to neither classical nor neoclassical economic thought. Indeed, there are strong arguments to be made that Aristotle’s views are completely at odds with all modern economic theory, since, among other things, he was not necessarily concerned with flexible market prices, opposed the use of money to acquire more money, and did not think that the unintended consequences of human activity were generally beneficial. The paper argues however, that this interpretation goes too far. The Benthamite neoclassical theory of choice can be seen as a dumbing down of Aristotle’s theory, applicable to animals, not humans. Adam Smith and Karl Marx were deeply influenced by Aristotle’s work and both started their main economic works with Aristotle: Smith ultimately rejecting, and Marx ultimately developing Aristotle’s views of the use of money to acquire more money. Possibilities for the future development of a new Aristotelian Economics are explored



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