The Governance of Complexity
Edited by Kurt Dopfer
Chapter 2: Is the Notion of Progress Compatible with an Evolutionary View of the Economy?
C. Christian von Weizsäcker 1. THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY A hundred years ago G.E. Moore published Principia Ethica, dedicated to his teachers and friends at the University of Cambridge.1 John Maynard Keynes was one of his closest friends2 in the group who called themselves ‘Apostles’. Later on Moore as professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge was the successor of John Neville Keynes, the father of the economist. In his Principia Ethica Moore criticises Herbert Spencer who had developed an evolutionary ethics.3 For Spencer evolution has a direction: from the lower to the higher. Spencer derives from this directedness of evolution that acting in accordance with evolution is ethically valuable action. Moore shows that the construction of Spencer is a tautology. The measure of the good with Spencer is identical with the results of evolution. Moore talks of the naturalistic fallacy: by putting certain phenomena of nature (for example that which is successful in the survival of the ﬁttest) as identical with ‘the good’ one believes oneself able to derive ethical measures from nature; but one obtains those ethical values from nature only because one has put them into nature in the ﬁrst place. In the social Darwinism of Spencer social progress is identical with the results of evolution. If we understand this to be a ‘naturalistic fallacy’ then the concept of progress becomes much more problematical. 2. NORMATIVE INDIVIDUALISM Neoclassical orthodoxy has developed a welfare economics which can be used to evaluate policy measures. Economics thereby has the...
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