From homo economicus to homo dignus. Values and the indispensability of patristics for economics, even after the Enlightenment

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Abstract

Before economic science developed into an independent discipline in the eighteenth century, economic
questions were the stuff of theological treatises. In summae such as those of the realist Thomas Aquinas, and
in the Collectorium of the nominalist Gabriel Biel, questions of human behavior, virtues and vices in social
and economic transactions and relations were addressed in the broader context of religion and theology. But
as economics became independent as a scientific discipline, God disappeared from economics. In this paper,
the problem is addressed that the scientific standards that apply in economics and theology seem to exclude
interdisciplinary cooperation. Then it is pointed out that the opposite is in fact the case: the methods used in
economics and theology are not the same, but complementary. It will become clear that it is useful to rekindle
the time-honored bonds between economics and theology as scientific disciplines, in order to deepen and enrich
the human view that underlies economic research. Finally, a concrete example is provided of how theologians can help economists to gain a more precise and deeper understanding of the human phenomenon, which will
be of use to them as they refine their research hypotheses. It is shown that theology can be of added value by
broadening the ‘economic view of human beings’. The study of Scriptural and patristic sources, especially the
works of St. Augustine, can help to refine and deepen the meaning of this word, precisely with a view to theory
formation in economics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalCuestiones Teologicas
Volume49
Issue number112
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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