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Ethics As Social Science

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Ethics As Social Science

The Moral Philosophy of Social Cooperation

Leland B. Yeager

Leland B. Yeager, formerly Ludwig von Mises Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics, Auburn University and Paul Goodloe McIntire Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Virginia, US

2000 352 pp Hardback 978 1 84064 521 7
2002 Paperback 978 1 84376 042 9
ebook isbn 978 1 84376 147 1

Hardback £101.00 on-line price £90.90

Paperback £32.00 on-line price £25.60

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Series: New Thinking in Political Economy series



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Description
‘. . . an illuminating book, informed by careful thought and wide-ranging scholarship.’
– David Gordon, The Mises Review

‘Economics claims to be a science of choice and its unintended consequences, but economists sneak moral judgments in through the back door. Ethics, on the other hand, often falters on the stilts of weak economic theories and assumptions. The result – economics without ethics is often sterile, and ethics without economics is often incoherent. Severed from one another, each can be dangerously misleading, and each misses the opportunity to better understand the economic and moral complexity behind social cooperation. Ethics as Social Science helps reconcile the two disciplines, and represents years of seasoned, careful thinking on the topic. Using clear, straightforward language, Yeager argues that economists should be alert to their ethical positions, rather than preach tacitly behind the mask of social welfare analysis and the like. Calling for a comparative institutional analysis, Yeager himself advances an argument in favor of an indirect or rule utilitarianism, one that is sure to unleash debate among libertarians, classical liberals, and defenders of mainstream welfare economics, and among moral philosophers who follow the present state of economic theory.’
– David L. Prychitko, Northern Michigan University, US

With this important book, esteemed economist Leland B. Yeager grounds moral and political philosophy in the requirements of a well-functioning society, one whose members reap the gains from peaceful cooperation while pursuing their own diverse goals.

This book explores the reasons an individual may have for helping to uphold such a society rather than seeking a free ride on the moral behavior of others. A work in the tradition of Hume, Smith, Mill, von Mises, Hayek and Hazlitt, it expounds a rules or indirect version of utilitarianism. It reviews criticisms of utilitarianism in detail, as well as alternative grounds of ethics including contractarianism, rights-based doctrines, and appeals to specific intuitions. Yeager brings the insights of economics to bear on a field usually dominated by philosophers and theologians. Ethics comes across as a subject amply open to the findings of economics and the other social and natural sciences.

Contents
Contents: Preface 1. Ethics and Economics 2. Some Fundamentals 3. Origins of Ethics 4. The Case for Indirect Utilitarianism 5. What Counts as Utility? 6. The Alleged Problem of Aggregation 7. Is Utilitarianism Immoral? 8. Altruism and Self-Interest 9. Duty and Universalizability 10. Rivals of Utilitarianism 11. Law, Government, and Policy 12. Utilitarianism after All References Index

Further information

‘. . . this is a very ambitious book – ranging over a great deal of territory and a great number of issues . . . the general perspectives offered are certainly engaging.’
– Alan Hamlin, Journal of Economic Methodology

‘. . . an illuminating book, informed by careful thought and wide-ranging scholarship.’
– David Gordon, The Mises Review

‘Economics claims to be a science of choice and its unintended consequences, but economists sneak moral judgments in through the back door. Ethics, on the other hand, often falters on the stilts of weak economic theories and assumptions. The result – economics without ethics is often sterile, and ethics without economics is often incoherent. Severed from one another, each can be dangerously misleading, and each misses the opportunity to better understand the economic and moral complexity behind social cooperation. Ethics as Social Science helps reconcile the two disciplines, and represents years of seasoned, careful thinking on the topic. Using clear, straightforward language, Yeager argues that economists should be alert to their ethical positions, rather than preach tacitly behind the mask of social welfare analysis and the like. Calling for a comparative institutional analysis, Yeager himself advances an argument in favor of an indirect or rule utilitarianism, one that is sure to unleash debate among libertarians, classical liberals, and defenders of mainstream welfare economics, and among moral philosophers who follow the present state of economic theory.’
– David L. Prychitko, Northern Michigan University, US

With this important book, esteemed economist Leland B. Yeager grounds moral and political philosophy in the requirements of a well-functioning society, one whose members reap the gains from peaceful cooperation while pursuing their own diverse goals.

This book explores the reasons an individual may have for helping to uphold such a society rather than seeking a free ride on the moral behavior of others. A work in the tradition of Hume, Smith, Mill, von Mises, Hayek and Hazlitt, it expounds a rules or indirect version of utilitarianism. It reviews criticisms of utilitarianism in detail, as well as alternative grounds of ethics including contractarianism, rights-based doctrines, and appeals to specific intuitions. Yeager brings the insights of economics to bear on a field usually dominated by philosophers and theologians. Ethics comes across as a subject amply open to the findings of economics and the other social and natural sciences.

Economists, philosophers and other students and scholars of the social sciences will welcome this book. It will also appeal to any reader interested in exploring the ideas of ethics.



 
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