Justice in Exchange: The Economic Philosophy of John Duns Scotus

By Mochrie, Robert I. | Journal of Markets & Morality, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Justice in Exchange: The Economic Philosophy of John Duns Scotus


Mochrie, Robert I., Journal of Markets & Morality


I review the contributions to Scholastic economic philosophy made by Duns Scotus in the Opus Oxoniense, showing that Duns Scotus makes considerable advances in the understanding of exchange, the legitimization of trade, and the development of the Church's traditional teaching on usury. I then apply the principles developed by Duns Scotus concerning the nature of justice to explore modern controversies in theology over the nature of debt, equality, and economic growth. I argue that it is possible to identify a route through which a Scotist economics might be developed, suggesting that this would place a greater value on normative analysis than is the case in neoclassical economics and assist communication between economists and theologians.

Introduction

From time to time, Christian economists have sought to explore how their faith might affect their professional practice. (1) These efforts tend to conclude that there is no place for separatism and that attempts to define a "Christian economics" are futile. Such arguments then tend to claim that Christian economists can "leaven" progress in economics, perhaps using standard tools of economic analysis to identify ways in which grace might flow through economic institutions. Recent work examining the experience of liberalizing gambling laws in the United States by using cost-benefit analysis to determine the social value of these changes shows the value of such work. (2) The result that social costs exceed social benefits is in accord with much Christian teaching on this matter, so we see economic analysis being used to provide evidence to amplify an ethical case.

In such work, economic and theological analyses tend to operate in parallel. This can also be seen very clearly in comparative work. Here, it is recognized that theologians have developed a very different understanding of economic phenomena from professional economists. Economic and theological principles are explored separately, with a view to explaining how theological discourse and economic analysis might be deepened through increased communication. (3)

In this article, I question the necessity of the separation of economic and theological thought. Believing that modern economic theory has its roots in the Scholastic theology of the late Middle Ages, I acknowledge that throughout the twentieth century, economics and theology possessed entirely disparate disciplinary matrices as this term was defined by Kuhn. (4) Separation of disciplines then implies a resistance to criticism from outsiders and belief in the autonomy of the paradigms in defining the direction of research. However, reference to Kuhn, together with awareness of the historical origins of economics within theological analysis, recall the argument of Weinberg that Kuhn's concept of a paradigm emerged from his own experience as a physics instructor while carrying out research in the history of medieval thought. (5) Weinberg identifies a claim of Kuhn's that he became an "Aristotelian" physicist, finding it difficult to understand why his undergraduate students were interested in investigating certain phenomena. In this context, the incommensurability of paradigms, which for Kuhn's critics has always been an exceptionally problematic concept, results from some six or seven centuries of developing Kuhn's exemplar--the emergence of Newtonian physics from Scholastic natural philosophy. The historical path of the development of the discipline means that an encounter with an Aristotelian physicist today is a remarkable event.

Awareness of the history of scholarship then suggests that finding adherents to Scholastic economics in a theology faculty might not be impossible. I suggest that modern scholarship in the history of thought characterizes Scholastic economic analysis by the subjugation of positive economic analysis to normative judgments concerning justice, especially in exchange. (6) This means that objective evidence, of the sort valued in modern economics, has a limited impact on the development of theological thought. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Justice in Exchange: The Economic Philosophy of John Duns Scotus
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

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

    Oops!

    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.