Human Action and Political Economy
In the Topics, Aristotle provides his philosophical analysis of human ends and means. He explains that means or instruments of production are valuable because their end products are useful to people. The more useful or desirable a good is, the higher the value of the means of production is. Aristotle then goes on to derive a number of economic ideas from axiomatic concepts including the necessity of human action, the pursuit of ends by ordering and allocating scarce means, and the reality of human inequality and diversity.
Aristotle explains that actions are necessarily and fundamentally singular. For Aristotle, the individual human action of using wealth is what constitutes the economic dimension. The purpose of economic action is to use things that are necessary for life (i.e., survival) and for the Good Life (i.e., flourishing). The Good Life is the moral life of virtue through which human beings attain happiness.
Given that human actions are voluntary and intentional, it follows that action requires the prior internal mental acts of deliberation and choice. Human beings seek to fulfill their perfection via action. Observing that human nature has capacities pertaining to its dual material and spiritual character, Aristotle explains that economics is an expression of that dual character. The economic sphere is the intersection between the corporeal and mental aspects of the human person.
Aristotle made a distinction between practical science and speculative science. He states that practical science is concerned with knowledge for the sake of controlling reality. It studies knowledge that may be otherwise (i.e., contingent knowledge). Practical science studies relationships that are not constant, regular, or invariable. Aristotle classifies economics as a practical science. On the other hand, Aristotle sees speculative science as yielding necessary, universal, noncontingent...