Welfare theory and ethics of end: from Moore to Keynes

As examples of ethics of motive, utilitarianism and neo-Humean views recognize only subjective values. Nevertheless, the simplification of excluding objective values is questionable. If we make reference to the moral values involved in sustainability, for example, non-anthropocentric ethics claims that, through reason, an intrinsic objective value (the primary value) also has to be ascribed to the natural system, considered as a whole. The primary value is independent of individuals' preferences, because a functioning ecosystem is essential to human lives and 'its services cannot be traded for other goods ... the substitution of ecosystem services is beyond human capacity' (Weikard, 2002, p. 21). Therefore, according to this view, the pursuit of sustainable development today requires a moral evolution which is well described by Hans Jonas (1974, p. 10): 'It would mean to seek not only human good but also the good of things extra-human, that is, to extend the recognition of "ends in themselves" beyond the sphere of man.'

In general, according to the ethics of end, reason also has to establish whether an end is desirable in itself. This is an ancient conception, which Plato and Aristotle refer to.6 The Stoics, St Thomas Aquinas, Antonio Rosmini, the Cambridge neo-Platonists, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Thomas Hill Green and Benedetto Croce are leading scholars within this tradition. According to this point of view, good is a perfect reality, which is deduced from the rational nature of human beings. Rationality is intended in the universal sense, because reason is able not only to coordinate means to the end but also to understand the ultimate ends of humanity. According to Russell (1954, p. 17), 'the actions of human beings do not all spring from direct impulse, but are capable of being controlled and directed by conscious purpose. ... It is because of this power of acting with a view to a desired end that ethics and moral rules are effective, since they suggest ... a distinction between good and bad purposes'.

Objective values are preferred because they are perfect. They are justified by the attempt to remove doubts, criticism and negation from specific values. We focus here on Moore's doctrine of the ideal, since it is on this that Keynes's conception of moral value and economic welfare is based. Unlike the Humean view, it recognizes objective intrinsic values; and unlike hedonism, it admits a plurality of moral values.

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