Solidarity Among Strangers During Natural Disasters: How Economic Insights May Improve Our Understanding of Virtues

The Journal of Ethics 28 (2):361-381 (2024)
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The renaissance of Aristotelian virtue ethics has produced an extensive philosophical literature that criticizes markets for a lack of virtues. Drawing on Michael Sandel’s virtue-ethical critique of price gouging during natural disasters, we (1) identify and clarify serious misunderstandings in recurring price-gouging debates between virtue-ethical critics and economists. Subsequently, (2) we respond to Sandel’s call for interdisciplinary dialogue. However, instead of solely calling on economics to embrace insights from virtue ethics, we prefer a two-sided version of interdisciplinary dialogue and argue that virtue ethics should embrace economic insights. In particular, we argue that if virtue ethics is to preserve its social relevance under modern conditions, it should re-conceptualize its notion of virtue and re-evaluate the self-interested but effective—and in this sense solidary—help among strangers via markets as virtuous rather than devaluate it as greed, that is, as vicious price gouging.



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