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Adrian Walsh - Money and Moral Philosophy

Money raises deeply perplexing moral issues that run through the whole of our lives. Many central dilemmas that confront us involve financial considerations. How should we earn our money? Are there something we wouldn’t do in pursuit of it? How much do we want of it? What prices should we charge for our services? To whom should we bequeath it? From birth until death we find ourselves enmeshed in the cash nexus.

However, contemporary analytic philosophers have little to say about the influence of money upon either our moral outlooks or our understanding of our place in the world. This has not always been so. Philosophers such Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Smith, Fourier, Marx and Simmel have had a great deal to say on the topic. Those philosophers explored interesting questions about, for instance, the just price, the morality of money-lending, the role in money in the sequence of human purposes and the proper relationship between price and ultimate value.

In this talk I provide a survey of some of the more interesting things philosophers have had to say about these topics. Along the way I shall also provide an historical explanation for why I think they no longer do so.