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Wealth, Commerce, and Philosophy

Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics

Edited by: Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis
Foreword by: Deirdre N. McCloskey
The moral dimensions of how we conduct business affect all of our lives in ways big and small, from the prevention of environmental devastation to the policing of unfair trading practices, from arguments over minimum wage rates to those over how government contracts are handed out. Yet for as deep and complex a field as business ethics is, it has remained relatively isolated from the larger, global history of moral philosophy. This book aims to bridge that gap, reaching deep into the past and traveling the globe to reinvigorate and deepen the basis of business ethics.

Spanning the history of western philosophy as well as looking toward classical Chinese thought and medieval Islamic philosophy, this volume provides business ethicists a unified source of clear, accurate, and compelling accounts of how the ideas of foundational thinkers—from Aristotle to Friedrich Hayek to Amartya Sen—relate to wealth, commerce, and markets. The essays illuminate perspectives that have often been ignored or forgotten, informing discussion in fresh and often unexpected ways. In doing so, the authors not only throw into relief common misunderstandings and misappropriations often endemic to business ethics but also set forth rich moments of contention as well as novel ways of approaching complex ethical problems. Ultimately, this volume provides a bedrock of moral thought that will move business ethics beyond the ever-changing opinions of headline-driven debate.

Author Information

Eugene Heath is professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, New Paltz. He is the author or coeditor of several books, including Morality and the Market and Adam Ferguson. Byron Kaldis is academic dean of the School of Humanities and professor of European philosophy at the Hellenic Open University in Greece. He is the author of several books including Holism, Language, and Persons and editor of the Sage Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences.


“This is a collection of important writing on business ethics. Unlike a great books approach, it relies on pieces by others explicating key thinkers in the field. ‘This volume seeks to reinvigorate and widen business ethics scholarship so that the discipline will be informed more fully and deeply by the perspectives of significant philosophers and thinkers.’ The moral issues associated with economic exchange, the ethical dimensions of markets and business, and the creation and uses of wealth are examined through the lenses of sages across a long history. It generally provides clear and compelling summaries of significant thought. The book suggests that a business ethicist might deploy arguments from an array of the thinkers in examining questions related to human resources, marketing, or incorporating concerns related to the natural environment in business. For example, Kant’s moral principle of treating others as ends in themselves might be deployed along with the virtues of Aristotle, such as honesty or generosity. Recommended.”
— Choice

Wealth, Commerce, and Philosophy reanimates our understanding of the world’s best thought about the role of commerce in human life. In doing so, this book reveals the moral force of commercial enterprise undertaken by free individuals—a perspective often missing from today’s superficial debates about business ethics and the role of business in society.”
— Robert Kolb, Loyola University Chicago

“This extraordinary collection encompasses philosophic issues that are rarely discussed in the business ethics literature. Each of the distinguished authors explores commerce andwealth within the context of broader concerns about the human condition such as the aspiration of men and women to lead a good life in a just society.”
— Joanne B. Ciulla, Rutgers University

"Heath and Kaldis’s volume is a tremendous contribution to business ethics, with its contributors adding to both the breadth and depth of the philosophical foundations of the field."
— Journal of the History of Economic Thought

Audience: Professional and scholarly;