Matthew Taylor\’s new book

Or at least, Mahd Mahdi\’s interpretation of it.

What kind of human beings we want to be, what kind of society we want, are always ethical questions, he insists. Again, he cites scientific research that shows how deeply rooted ethical understanding is in the human brain. Ethical reasoning and debate need to be resurrected. We need an ethics that challenges the dominant logics of market, bureaucracy, and scientific and technological development.

I do hope that there\’s lots of Adam Smith in that book.

For he, of course, wrote extensively on empathy (what he called sympathy) in Theory of Moral Sentiments just as he did extensively upon markets in Wealth of Nations.

Indeed, as he pointed out, there\’s no conflict between the two at all: far from it, one begets the other. It is through that wide extension of trade that we realise that those not of family or tribe are indeed just like us and thus we empathise with them.

Which makes this rather interesting:

The question is whether our capacity for empathy can expand to the human species, the globe and the biosphere in time to prevent the destruction of the environmental resources on which we depend. Empathy can save us, believes Taylor; it is vital to negotiations on how we share out natural resources, and vital to ensure harmonious co-existence on a crowded planet.

If Smith is right (and I of course tend to think that he is) then the environmentalists are doing themselves no favours. We need to extend empathy to all: but if empathy is something extended by trade, how can this sit alongside the environmentalist insistence that we must curb trade and all become more self-sufficient?

1 thought on “Matthew Taylor\’s new book”

  1. But she makes the demand that empathy be extended not just to the rest of humanity, but to the globe and the biosphere.

    That’s a critical difference. She rates the rights of the abstract biosphere as a high as that of humans, and given the fact that we can do virtually nothing without an impact on the biosphere, she probably rates it higher. Furthermore, the biosphere doesn’t speak for itself – it has enlightened proxy spokeswomen do it for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *