On Aristotle's Natural Limit

History of Political Economy 46 (3):387-407 (2014)
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Abstract

Among scholars of ancient economic thought, it is widely recognized that Aristotle established an upper limit to money-making. This “natural limit” has been variously construed, with some claiming that it might be settled independently of Aristotle’s ethical theory. This paper defends the opposite thesis: Aristotle’s natural limit is inextricably tied to his account of human flourishing. It also argues that Aristotle precludes the wealth-seeking path as coincident with a flourishing life. Why? For Aristotle, money-making as an end in itself is endemic to the life of pleasure, not the good life. Moreover, the unchecked pursuit of ever more money is likely to crowd out other intrinsically valuable goods, such as friendship, agency, and autonomy. Finally, from the standpoint of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, wealth acquisition beyond the natural limit is considered to be a vice, not a virtue.

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C. Tyler DesRoches
Arizona State University

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