The mandevillean conceit and the profit-motive

Philosophy 78 (1):43-63 (2003)
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Invisible Hand accounts of the operations of the competitive market are often thought to have two implications for morality as it confronts economic life. First, explanantions of agents economic activities eschew constitutive appeal to moral notions; and second, such moralism is pernicious insofar as it tends to undermine the operations of a socially valuable social process. This is the Mandevillean Conceit. The Conceit rests on an avarice-only reading of the profit-motive that is mistaken. The avarice-only reading is not the only way of characterising the profit-motive, and there are some positive grounds for thinking the benefits of profit pursuit are better attributed to the “lucrephile”, and not the avarice-only “lucrepath”.



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