Among scholars of ancient economic thought, it is widely recognized that Aristotle established an upper limit to money-making. This “natural limit” has been variously construed, with some claiming that it might be settled independently of Aristotle’s ethical theory. This essay defends the contrary thesis: Aristotle’s natural limit is inextricably tied to his account of human flourishing. I also argue that, for Aristotle, a human life committed to money-making is incompatible with achieving eudaimonia. Why? For Aristotle, money-making as an end in itself is endemic to the life of pleasure, not the good life. Moreover, the unchecked pursuit of evermore money is likely to crowd out other intrinsically valuable goods, such as friendship, agency, and autonomy. Finally, from the standpoint of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, wealth acquisition beyond the natural limit is considered to be a vice, not a virtue.
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C. Tyler DesRoches; On Aristotle’s Natural Limit. History of Political Economy 1 September 2014; 46 (3): 387–407. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-2796197
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