Academic journal article European Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Modern Social Science Concepts, Proportionate Reciprocity, Modesty, and Democracy

Academic journal article European Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Modern Social Science Concepts, Proportionate Reciprocity, Modesty, and Democracy

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Book V of Aristotle's (384-322 BC) Nicomachean Ethics has elicited the attention of economists, because it contains Aristotle's economics of exchange. It is the economics implied by the concept of reciprocal justice, two-way justice or two-way equality in a mutual fashion so to speak, which type of justice is possible to exercise only in voluntary two-person exchange in the private sector. We shall see that it is specifically the concept which has come to be known, from the 1670s and on, as the Golden Rule or Law, or Ethic of Reciprocity. In its positive form, this rule urges to " Treat others how you wish to be treated", while in its negative form, "One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated" (Flew, 1979, p.134). This connection of exchange with this type of justice is the reason why according to historians of thought, jurists and theologians were the first to become interested in this subject matter, (see e.g. Gordon, 1975).

From the debate permutatio vs. emptio-venditio (barter vs. monetized exchange) and the concept of iustum pretium (just price) of the Justinian account of the Roman-Byzantine law, Corpus Juris Civilis (534 AD), to the medieval extension of the doctrine laesius enormis (excessive inheritance) embodied in this law, by Carloman 's notion of negocium (business transaction) in his Capitula (884 AD) and by the revivalists of this law in the Bologna School of Law founded by Irnerius in 1084 AD. And, subsequently, from S. Thomae Aquinatis' Summa Theologica (1265/7-1273 AD) and the Scholastics (1300- 1600 AD) to Venerable Leonard Lessius' De Justitia et Jure (1605 AD) and the dawn of present-day economics by Adam Smith.

Consequently, an understanding of the Aristotelian economics of exchange should also be able to provide an understanding of the post-Aristotelian approaches to exchange and price formation. We see, for example, that the following mentality of the Schoolmen, described by Gordon (1975, p. 260), mirrors Aristotle: "Most Schoolmen assumed that even in the absence of monopoly, markets were rarely perfect. Some lack of knowledge must almost be present and could be tolerated by the moralist." Also, Blaug (1991) mentions claims that Aristotle anticipated Jevon's theory of exchange and Menger's theory of imputation. And, Jaffe (1974) maintains-as we do too, herein, but absolved from the "obscurities in Book V" (Jaffe 1974, p. 385), which in the author's opinion plague Jaffe, too- that even Edgeworth's contract curve is Aristotelian in origin.

Some, of course, like Schumpeter (1954), Meikle (1995), and Rothbard (1995) see no economics in the Aristotelian economics of exchange, Ludwig von Mises (1963 [1949]) claims that these economics are simply fallacious while others like Theocarakis (2006, p. 9) think that "...the attempt to base subsequent economic analysis on his canon is utterly untenable."...or in terms of Pack's (2008, p. 265) approach, "...Aristotle's views are completely at odds with all modern economic theory" though "...definitely... of interest to some heterodox economists" (p. 278). Yet, the recent tendency to be finding arguments refuting Aristotle just because the academia's position nowadays is that "[t]he Aristotelian ideal that the world is rational, and if we try hard enough we can use our own rationality to really grasp or approach that truth, is in retreat" (Pack, 2008, p. 276), is equivalent to purposeful misinterpretation...

Anyway, Theocarakis' (2006) work does offer a recent critical history of Aristotle's economics of exchange. One realizes going through this history that the source of the confusion about "Aristotelian exchange" is the confusion about the definition of the term "reciprocal figures" in Euclid's Elements, (see e.g. Simpson, 1804), which opened the doors to all sorts of philosophical speculative and in the end futile thinking. The author, too, is inclined to "read Aristotle" with a philosophical eye, though, in my view, what he wanted to say is quite clear, because Euclid's notion of reciprocity should be in line with the universal appeal of the Golden Rule as well, and hence, anything but obscure. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.