Values, Markets and the State
Edited by Geoffrey Brennan and Giuseppe Eusepi
Chapter 3: An Economist’s Plaidoyer for a Secular Ethics: The Moral Foundation and Social Role of Critical Rationalism
1 Stefano Gorini Introduction The adoption of the rationalist attitude to the understanding of the world, also known as critical rationalism, is a vital matter not only for philosophers, scientists and intellectuals, but for people from all walks of life. It has theoretical, moral and social implications placing it on a collision course against the demands of religions and ideologies. This chapter is structured around four tightly related theses. The first thesis equates the distinction between morality and economics to the distinction between values and interests. The second thesis is that the theoretical foundation of critical rationalism – the secular world-view, and its moral foundation – the secular ethics of individual freedom-independence embedded in the ‘belief’ in reason alone, are inseparable components of a single existential conception, and logically incompatible with the non-secular world-views and morals of religions and ideologies. The third thesis credits such secular ethics with a unique social role, embodied in the special ethical nature of its imperative for social solidarity and a liberal social order. It is the special nature of this imperative that makes it into the only force capable of withstanding rent-exploitation as the dominant economic incentive encoded in the secular non-morality of personal well-being and social success, and social fundamentalism as the non-liberal substance encoded in a formally liberal social order which allows non-secular moral principles to enter its ethical foundation. The fourth thesis separates moral from social justice. The former belongs to the domain of the protection of values – the secular value of individual...
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