Review Of "Living Together: Inventing Moral Science" By D. Schmidtz

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Schmidtz (West Virginia Univ.) is a widely published, well-regarded philosopher of economics with a strong tilt toward libertarianism. In this engaging book he argues that (1) moral philosophy is less fundamental than political philosophy; (2) moral philosophy had become disconnected from social science (especially economics) by mid-19th century; (3) the fundamental question humans have always faced is how to live together peacefully while prospering; (4) this is achieved primarily by establishing conventions that are tested by experience; and (5) justice not only manages conflict and traffic but is an adaptation to the human condition (at different stages of history) and a process, not an end. Schmidtz believes David Hume and Adam Smith were on the right path in thinking about these matters. In the course of defending his claims, Schmidtz defends the way economists tend to think about such matters, and he specifically defends cost benefit analysis even regarding intrinsic values that are incommensurable. He argues that living together peacefully while prospering requires that one should not impose specific ends on others, just specific conventions that primarily manage how to live together, mainly through conventions that work well enough to achieve these essential but modest goals. Nonlibertarians will find many things to contest, but that makes the book all the more worth reading. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


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