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The Theological Virtue of Charity in the Economy: Reflections on “Caritas in veritate”

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Part of the Virtues and Economics book series (VIEC,volume 1)


Possible connections between the virtue of charity and the economy are explored using key sentences from the third chapter of the encyclical Caritas in veritate by Pope Benedict XVI. Without gratuitousness and the unconditional gift operating within normal economic activity, the economy cannot achieve its proper end; while society needs three different sectors to function properly – state, market and civil society – solidarity and reciprocal gift, nevertheless, need to be found in all three. This thinking can be connected with economics on a philosophical level by using the approach of personalism, and on a theological level through practical experience and by using the idea of a theological virtue as a “powerful social resource”.

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    One example would be the “ultimatum game”, where a person (A) is told that she will receive a significant sum of money (say, £500), only if she makes an offer of a part of it to another person (B). B, meanwhile, is also told that A will not receive the sum of money unless he accepts A’s offer. According to the classical way of thinking, A will offer the smallest amount possible to get the acceptance of B. In practice, the most commonly offered amount is a 50% split, and the next most common result is that A offers 40% of the money to B. This kind of result is difficult to explain in a purely individualistic way, whereas, according to a personalist view, we can see that A and B recognize that they have received a gift and that only in cooperating with each other can they achieve both their shared and their individual good.

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    See, for instance, Luigino Bruni and Alessandra Smerilli (2008), Benedetta Economia: Benedetto di Norcia e Francesco d’Assisi nella storia economica europea, Città Nuova, with a preface from Stefano Zamagni .

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Correspondence to Helen Alford .

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Alford, H. (2017). The Theological Virtue of Charity in the Economy: Reflections on “Caritas in veritate”. In: Rona, P., Zsolnai, L. (eds) Economics as a Moral Science. Virtues and Economics, vol 1. Springer, Cham.

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