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Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 470: Ethics and Economic Justice

PHIL 470: Ethics and Economic Justice

The Generic Catalog Description

This course investigates questions of ethics as they relate to economic practice and theory, including the distribution of economic goods in a market economy and the structure of economic organizations.


PHIL 470: Ethics and Economic Justice

David Schweickart

This course has a double focus--economic justice at the national level, and economic justice globally. We begin by reading two classic texts, Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, and, John Rawls' A Theory of Justice..

Milton Friedman, a Nobel-laureate in economics, is generally regarded as the most influential economist of the post-World-War II era. His perspective is currently hegemonic in much of the world, having been re-baptized as "neoliberalism." Friedman called himself a "classical liberal," to distinguish his views from "modern liberalism," the perspective that finds its most comprehensive expression in Rawls's magnum opus, which is easily the most influential philosophical work of Anglo-American political philosophy of post-war era.

Friedman endorses a version of laissez-faire capitalism as in ideal state. Rawls thinks that a just capitalism requires a much more interventionist government. The third author we study argues that capitalism itself is fundamentally flawed, and that economic justice demands going beyond capitalism. This perspective is articulated in my book, After Capitalism, the third text we study.

All three of the above-mentioned works have as their primary focus justice within a given state. Recently philosophers and economists have become increasingly concerned with justice at the international level. To address this issue,we then read another Nobel-laureate economist, Amartya Sen, whose Development as Freedom articulates a philosophically sophisticated theory of justice intended to be an alternative to Friedmanite and Rawlsian theories that is global in scope. Sen's book is followed by the philosopher Thomas Pogge's World Poverty and Human Rights. Pogge, a student of Rawls, is one of the most important philosophers writing today on the question of global poverty.

Other Possible Readings:
Noreena Hertz, The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the Developing World
John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
David Ellerman, Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance
Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time [2001 Edition is used, with preface by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz]


PHIL 470: Early Modern Jesuit Political and Economic Philosophy

Fr. Stephen C. Rowntree, SJ

Early Modern Jesuits made significant contributions to the controverted issues in the politics and economics of their times.  The Reformation divided a heretofore religiously united Western European Christendom.  The religious divisions raised new questions about relations between rulers’ and subjects, especially between rulers who professed one religion and their subjects who professed a different one.  What were the legitimate demands that rulers could or should make concerning their subjects’ religion? Could a heretical ruler be a legitimate ruler?  What could subjects legitimately do by way of resistance or conformity when rulers claimed authority to rule the Church?  What were the proper relations between rulers and the Pope as Head of the universal Church?  What authority did popes have in political matters affecting members of the Church?

Among early modern Jesuits who made significant contributions on these political questions were Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suarez, Juan de Mariana, and Robert Persons (the superior of the English Jesuit Mission).

A principal catalyst for the writings of these authors were the claims of the first two Protestant successors of Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth I, and James I who claimed to exercise the supreme authority over the English Church Henry as Henry had. The demands of these rulers that subjects swear allegiance to their authority over the church raised acute questions about what Catholic subjects could and could not do swear in good faith.  A rich casuistry developed concerning oaths, equivocation, and so forth.

Besides selected primary texts of Bellarmine, Suarez, and Persons, the principal secondary text will be Harro Hopfl, Jesuit Political Thought: The Society of Jesus and the State, c. 1540-1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2004).

Early modern Jesuits also treated ethical issues raised by economic developments of the time.  Among these authors (e.g. Molina, de Mariana, Lugo), one of the most important was the Belgian Leonard Lessius who observed and commented on the flourishing trade, commerce, and finance of Antwerp in the latter half of the 16th century.  These Jesuit authors treated issues of economic and business ethics in the form of commentaries (frequently very lengthy) on Thomas of Aquinas’ Secunda Secundae of the Summa Theologica.  This section of the course will begin with a careful reading of the Summa on property, buying and selling, and lending.  Students will then read extensive selections from Lessius De Jure et De Justitia on these same topics.  Fortunately a number of these texts have been translated into English. Also, an extensive secondary literature on Lessius has developed, especially his treatment of the titles that justify charging interest on a loan. Some commentators have also seen in the work of Lessius the rudiments of economic liberalism even make bold to claim him as a precursor of free-market capitalism.



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