Ethics and Economics Conference 2017

19 Jan 2017 - 20 Jan 2017 19 Jan, Thu, 9.30 AM to 5.00 PM and 20 Jan, Fri, 9.30 AM to 6.30 PM SUTD Lecture Theatre 4 (Building 2, Level 4)


The conference aims to be the first of a series of annual conferences on the issue of ethics and economics. Register here

The two-way connection between ethics and economics has received renewed interest recently. Scholars have examined how ethics shape economic decisions, institutions, and systems, and conversely. This renewed interest appears in a historic period characterised by a widening and a deepening of market practices. A widening, because it is characterized by a diffusion of market ideologies and practices around the world following the fall of state socialism. A deepening, because our daily lives are increasingly entangled by market interactions. New markets are being created for goods and services such as human bodies, ecological waste, or gestation. The commodification of previously sanctuarised objects and activities has led to increased ethical concern on the permissibility of such transactions, as well as novel forms of political resistance.

Our interdisciplinary conference will go along a recent trend in research on ethics and economics. Researchers interested in this topic have overcome the traditional divide between economics, which tended to focus on value, and other social sciences, which examined values. Our ambition is to take this dialog between different scholarly disciplines further. We will invite scholars from economics, sociology, and philosophy, to share their views on the interplay between ethics and economics. Our hope is to get a better understanding of our common grounds and differences, and also to get an overview of the most cutting edge research debates in each discipline.

The questions we will ask include, but are not limited to:

  • How, when and why is an economic choice perceived as `good’ or `bad’? What are the theories of good implicit in decision theory?

  • How can foundational ethical principles such as equality, dignity and human rights be made compatible with economic theory? How do we deal with the multiplicity of norms and rules, and the choice of their hierarchy?

  • What can ethical theory gain from the formal tools of analysis in economic theory?

  • The human body has become a hotly contested domain of application of market principles (sale of organs, eggs or sperm, surrogacy, private health markets and insurances, price of medicine and life-saving devices, notably in developing countries, selection of transplant recipients in situations of scarcity…). What specific ethical problems are raised by such increasing marketability of the human body? What conceptual framework is required to understand, analyse and frame these issues?

  • Organised crime (mafias, drug trade, etc.) present an interesting paradox: while engaging in illegal and often unethical activities, such economic activities may also involve some form of community development (building hospitals, schools, arranging public services) in the regions where they thrive. How are we then to understand the relationship between ethics and such activities?

  • At an epistemological level, we are interested in understanding the best methodological approaches to analyse issues of morality. What kind of empirical evidence should a researcher focus on when analysing issues of morality?

  • At the level of individual agents, how can we analyse the underlying preferences in market behaviour? Does self-interest constitute the only norm of economic choices? What sort of empirical evidence is available on how economic institutions or socio-economic status affects moral behaviour? Can the design of institutions promote ethical behaviour, and if so, how?

Read more for conference schedule.