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The Ethics of Freedom: On the Moral Foundations of Economic Analysis

Nuno O. Martins
Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
T. 65, Fasc. 1/4, A Civilizacao da Economia e as Respostas de Filosofia: Sobre a Pertinencia e a Praxis do Saber / Philosophy and the Sphere of Economics: Arguments for a Theoretical Praxis (Janeiro-Dezembro 2009), pp. 349-375
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41220803
Page Count: 27
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The Ethics of Freedom: On the Moral Foundations of Economic Analysis
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Abstract

Amartya Sen cnticises the utilitanan philosophy that underpins neoclassical economics, and suggests the development of an economic theory grounded on a broad conception of freedom. Freedom includes for Sen two dimensions, namely the opportunity aspect and the process aspect. The opportunity aspect of freedom consists in the capability to achieve the goals that freedom provides us with, and, thus, can be seen in a consequentialist fashion. The procedural dimension of freedom, on the other hand, highlights the role ofnghts and procedures, and is in line with deontological approaches to ethics. But since deontological (or procedural) and consequentialist approaches to ethics are often said to be incompatible, the article raises the question of whether Sen's conception is coherent or not. The author of the article argues that consequentialist and deontological approaches need not be incompatible, whereby he underlines in a special way the role of uncertainty as a key element in the understanding of the relationship between those two views of ethics. Finally, the article also assesses the coherence of A. Sen's conception of the economic agent, a conception that resorts both to the notion of "moral sentiments" developed by Adam Smith as well as to the notion of "moral imperatives" developed by Kant. A filosofia utilitansta subjacente à escola neoclássica de economia tern sido amplamente criticada por Amartya Sen, facto esse que, segundo o autor do presente artigo, nos pode sugerir o desenvolvimento de uma teoria económica baseada numa concepção ampla de liberdade. Para Sen, com efeito, o conceito de liberdade comporta duas dimensões bem explícitas, uma relacionada com as oportunidades proporcionadas pela liberdade, e a outra relacionada com os aspectos processuais da mesma. No que se refere à primeira dimensão, o artigo sublinha sobretudo o facto de a liberdade proporcionar a possibilidade de realizar determinados objectivos, numa perspectiva consequencialista. Por outro lado, a dimensão processual da liberdade evidencia a importância dos direitos e dos procedimentos, pelo que o artigo mostra igualmente até que ponto Sen se encontra também em linha com as éticas de cariz deontológico. Dado, porém, que as abordagens consequencialista e deontológica tendem a ser consideradas incompatíveis, o artigo não pode deixar de levantar a questão relativa à coerência da concepção ética do próprio Amartya Sen. No final de contas, a intenção do artigo é precisamente demonstrar que estas duas abordagens (consequencialista e deontológica) não são necessanamente incompatíveis entre si, pelo que o autor procura no conceito de incerteza o elemento necessáno a urna correcta compreensão da relação que existe entre esses dois tipos de abordagem ética. Finalmente, no sentido de evidenciar a coerência da concepção de agente económico defendida por Sen, o artigo recorre também, entre outros, seja ao conceito "sentimento moral" desenvolvido por Adam Smith, seja à noção Kantiana de "imperativo moral".

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