Richard Schmitt
Brown University
Recent writers on economics have conceded that capitalism suffers from serious shortcomings. But they argue that, in spite of that, preference should be given to capitalism over alternative systems, because it alone gives free rein to the universal, human desire for private gain and is therefore best adapted to human nature. I argue against this psychological defense of capitalism that the desire for private gain is not a universal trait of human beings. On the contrary, it is a defining trait of capitalist society that in it persons are first and foremost motivated by that desire. My argument rests on reflections about the way in which we identify motives. We identify motives not by introspection but by reference to lists of actions that persons, who act from a given motive, may be expected to perform in suitable circumstances. To function in a capitalist society I must perform the sorts of actions by reference to which we identify the desire for private gain as a active
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DOI 10.1080/00201747308601683
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References found in this work BETA

Capitalism and Freedom.Milton Friedman - 1962 - Ethics 74 (1):70-72.
The Logical Character of Action-Explanations.Paul M. Churchland - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):214-236.
Some Remarks on Action and Desire.J. J. Valberg - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (15):503-520.

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Citations of this work BETA

Selfishness and Capitalism1.Tibor R. Machan - 1974 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 17 (1-4):338-344.
Capitalism and the Desire for Private Gain.Thomas S. Torrance - 1974 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 17 (1-4):241 – 245.

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Is Capitalism Still Viable?Michael Harrington - 1982 - Journal of Business Ethics 1 (4):281 - 284.
Philosophy and Desire.Hugh J. Silverman (ed.) - 2000 - Routledge.
The Ethical Roots of Business Ethics.David Vogel - 1991 - Business Ethics Quarterly 1 (1):101-120.
Capitalism and the Desire for Private Gain.Thomas S. Torrance - 1974 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 17 (1-4):241 – 245.


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