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. . . broken into multiple disconnected compartments of western understanding

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From Richard Norgaard . . . until early in the 19th century, merely two hundred years ago, an effort to intertwine reality and morality still existed in natural theology, the project to understand the character, will, and operating manual of God through the study of nature. Isaac Newton was both an accomplished moral philosopher and a path-breaking natural philosopher (Iliffe, 2017). The Physiocrats made moral arguments about who should be taxed based directly on what they understood to be physical realities (Schabas, 2007). Adam Smith wrote a treatise on astronomy to document his knowledge of natural systems before writing moral philosophy (Ross, 2010, chapter 7). Well into the 19th century, both natural and moral philosophy students as well as students of theology, medicine, and law

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from Richard Norgaard

. . . until early in the 19th century, merely two hundred years ago, an effort to intertwine reality and morality still existed in natural theology, the project to understand the character, will, and operating manual of God through the study of nature. Isaac Newton was both an accomplished moral philosopher and a path-breaking natural philosopher (Iliffe, 2017). The Physiocrats made moral arguments about who should be taxed based directly on what they understood to be physical realities (Schabas, 2007). Adam Smith wrote a treatise on astronomy to document his knowledge of natural systems before writing moral philosophy (Ross, 2010, chapter 7). Well into the 19th century, both natural and moral philosophy students as well as students of theology, medicine, and law studied William Paley’s “Natural Philosophy, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature” (Paley, 1835 and earlier editions). In 1874, social philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill intertwined the science of natural laws and natural religion (Mill, 1874). Morality and reality intertwined in the minds of European intellectual elites during the rise of disciplines in the latter 19th century. Then, not only reality and morality became separated but they too were broken into multiple disconnected compartments of western understanding. The creation of disciplines, specialized realms of knowledge, implicitly entailed the assumption that the linkages between disciplines were sufficiently weak that, for “practical” purposes, they could be ignored. Pure reason combined with empirical evidence in the style of Newton’s physics was only practical by assuming reality could be divided into parts. It was in this historical context that the 20th century idea arose that economics could be a separate field of human understanding.

 ( read morePost-economics: Reconnecting reality and morality to escape the Econocene)

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