Moneymaking and economics in Aristotle's politics

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2020-05-07

Authors

Quillen, Henry T.

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Aristotle’s Politics I.8-11 contains a profound reflection on the relationship between moneymaking and the divergent needs of individuals and politics. It offers not only a clear confrontation with the issue of scarcity, but, unlike modern economics, also a causal explanation of limitless demand. Moreover, Aristotle suggests that the psychological consequences of scarcity pull human beings away from the satisfaction of a fuller range of their needs, and that clarity about those needs greatly weakens the human passion for limitless moneymaking. Need and utility, not unlimited acquisitiveness, are the focus of Aristotelian economics. Yet he also shows that clarity about human needs is quite rare, and, in political life, necessarily absent. I argue that Aristotle’s teaching in Politics I.8-11 is that the philosopher, an essentially private individual, is the true economist on account of his unique clarity about human neediness.

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