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Beyond Self

Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Economics


Laszlo Zsolnai

This book addresses ethical and spiritual issues in economics. The central idea advanced in the book is that the extreme focus on the self by economic actors leads to the destruction of both material and non-material values.
The assumptions of self-interest in behavior represent the core of mainstream economics today. From this perspective, the welfare of economic agents depends on their own consumption; their goal is to maximize their own welfare; and their choice is guided by the pursuit of their own goals.
Throughout the book the author argues that self-interest-based actions and policies have a detrimental impact on nature, future generations, and society at large. If we want to survive and flourish in the material world we have to transcend the self and embrace wholeness. This value shift requires enormous changes in economics, politics and social life, but there may not be any other option in light of the current state of ecological degradation and human suffering.
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Chapter 6: Ethics Needs Spirituality

1 Ethical Motivation and Spirituality


← 77 | 78 → ← 78 | 79 → CHAPTER 6

Ethics Needs Spirituality*

In this paper I argue that ethics needs spirituality as an underlying background and major motivational force.

Western ethics suggests that ethical action is a cognitive enterprise. Western ethical theories provide abstract models to be applied or followed by moral agents (deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics). But we know from practice that the main problem in order to behave ethically is not knowledge but motivation. We should focus on the exercise of moral agency stressed by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura (1991).

This is where spirituality and transpersonal psychology can help. If we want to improve the ethicality of our decisions and actions we should enhance the development of our self toward a more inclusive, holistic, and peaceful consciousness. Empirical evidence suggests that spiritual experiences help the person to transcend his or her narrow self-conception and enable him or her to exercise genuine empathy with others and to take an all-encompassing perspective.

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