Economists and theologians usually inhabit different intellectual worlds. Economists investigate the workings of markets and tend to set ethical questions aside. Theologians, anxious to take up concerns raised by market outcomes, often dismiss economics and lose insights into the influence of market incentives on individual behavior. Mary L. Hirschfeld, who was a professor of economics for fifteen years before training as a theologian, seeks to bridge these two fields in this innovative work about economics and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
According to Hirschfeld, an economics rooted in Thomistic thought integrates many of the insights of economists with a larger view of the good life, and gives us critical purchase on the ethical shortcomings of modern capitalism. In a Thomistic approach, she writes, ethics and economics cannot be reconciled if we begin with narrow questions about fair wages or the acceptability of usury. Rather, we must begin with an understanding of how economic life serves human happiness. The key point is that material wealth is an instrumental good, valuable only to the extent that it allows people to flourish. Hirschfeld uses that insight to develop an account of a genuinely humane economy in which pragmatic and material concerns matter but the pursuit of wealth for its own sake is not the ultimate goal.
The Thomistic economics that Hirschfeld outlines is thus capable of dealing with our culture as it is, while still offering direction about how we might make the economy better serve the human good.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
1 To Serve God or Mammon? The Dialogue between Theology and Economics 1
2 The Rational Choice Model and Its Limitations 34
3 Happiness and the Distinctively Human Exercise of Practical Reason: The Metaphysical Backdrop 68
4 Happiness and the Distinctively Human Exercise of Practical Reason: Virtue and Prudence 95
5 Economic Life as Ordered to Happiness 118
6 From Liberality to Justice: Aquinas's Teachings on Private Property 161
7 Toward a Humane Economy: A Pragmatic Approach 191