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The Background to Hawtrey's Ethics


  • David Andrews


The positive/normative distinction, in its modern form, was introduced into economics by Lionel Robbins. Robbins's discussion of the distinction was provoked in part by Ralph Hawtrey's prior claim that economics cannot be dissociated from ethics. Robbins's argument has been quite influential, but Hawtrey himself was not persuaded and later explicitly reaffirmed his view but did not sketch out its basis in any published writing. This article offers an interpretation of the philosophical underpinnings of Hawtrey's position. It argues that Hawtrey had a sophisticated, well-developed, and coherent position, with deep historical roots and based on the ethics of G. E. Moore and that rejected moral Robbins's moral skepticism. Hawtrey took the view that goodness is an objective property of the world and, as a result, he construed the relationship between ethics and economics in a manner quite different from that which prevails today.

Suggested Citation

  • David Andrews, 2010. "The Background to Hawtrey's Ethics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 297-322, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:42:y:2010:i:2:p:297-322

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    Cited by:

    1. Antoinette Baujard, 2013. "Value judgments and economics expertise," Working Papers halshs-00803552, HAL.

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    Lionel Robbins; Ralph Hawtrey; G. E. Moore;


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