Does Capitalism Promote Greed?: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico, Part 2
Editor's Note: The first part of Joseph Gorra's interview with Robert Sirico may be found here: "Is Capitalism Immoral?" Below is the second installment in the interview.
One of the distinctive elements of your book—indeed, of your leadership and work through the Acton Institute—is that you see quintessential questions of economics and politics as also questions of theology and ethics. But within Western societies today there appears to be a kind of fact/value dichotomy that operates as an assumption in much of our discourse, where questions of 'economics' (and the sciences in general) are in the category of knowledge and facts and therefore tend to trump questions of 'theology,' which are not considered categories of knowledge but only 'private values and religious beliefs.' How do you respond to this dichotomist thinking?
This is certainly the case, despite the fact that economics, as an intellectual discipline, originates in theology and ethical concerns, dating back to the Scholastic theologians of Salamanca, or even Adam Smith (who wrote Theory of Moral Sentiments prior to Wealth of Nations).
The dichotomous fact/value assumption fails to see that the accumulation of facts is necessary and fascinating, but ultimately unsatisfying; were it true we would simply be able to Google our way to happiness. No, it is the meaning of the facts, not the facts themselves that satisfies our hunger for truth. The modern resistance to metaphysical and normative questions—especially manifest in the use of values-talk (which is inherently subjectivist) in the place of virtues and vices (which assume moral objectivity)—results in a reluctance to probe the "ought" encased in the "is" of our existence and shows itself in the general philosophical resistance to the truth claims that can be discerned by right reason in general. The opposite of a fact is not a value. The opposite of a fact is a false proposition.
The dichotomous fact/value assumption also stunts our comprehension of what is true.
It's also true that some economists become hegemonic in thinking that the whole of truth is seen through their particular lens of expertise, rather than appreciating the immense complexity of humanity and situating their part of the truth within the broader truth of who the human person is. But that's not just a problem for some economists—scientism infects almost every discipline that has a strong empirical element.
It would be humorous, if it were not tragic, when one becomes so blinded by the subjectivism of such relativism that they accuse others of what they themselves are infected with.
What I am trying to do is broaden our comprehension of the truth that permeates everything—in the case of my book, how the economic can be seen to emerge from a reflection of human nature and empower us to do the good intentionally.
Joseph E. Gorra is the Managing Editor of Philosophia Christi, the peer-reviewed journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He has also interviewed other philosophers, theologians and other theorists on virtue, economics, and the free society for EPSOCIETY.org. At Patheos.com, he recently interviewed Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, about her research regarding evangelical religious experiences. Twitter: @GorraResearch.
You can learn more about Fr. Sirico and the work of the Acton Institute, including their various publishing efforts, educational programs and online resources, by visiting www.acton.org.