The interests of human beings have been considered in different reflections throughout the history of humankind. Philosophers, theologians, political economists and famous literary writers have examined the different interests, like Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Alasdair MacIntyre and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to name a few.
The challenge of this element is to develop a framework which focuses on three interests of a human being: interest (i) in the individual, i.e. in him or herself, (ii) in society and (iii) in entirety. While Mainstream Economics focuses mainly on the individual, Ecological Economics is concerned with all three interests. To begin with, note the behaviour of living beings’ issues from their needs. In contrast to non-human beings, human beings can and do reflect on their needs. This opens up alternatives, e.g. to postpone the satisfaction of certain needs in favour of other needs. Reflection that leads to a decision operates within the sphere of rationality, a sphere different from that of needs. This explains the observation that the development and behaviour of human individuals is far less predictable than the development of non-human beings.
In contrast to Mainstream Economics which focuses on needs and preferences, our standard of choice in this element focuses on the term interest. Interest is linked to needs, but it is separated by reflection, and thus human beings gain distance to move beyond what they directly perceive. The concept of interest, contrary to that of needs, is orientated toward longer periods of time. This element opens new perspectives for long-term environmental research, in particular concerning sustainability. Our practical examples show how difficult it is to deal adequately with interests. This is particularly true for interest in entirety.
Key Contributer: Reiner Manstetten
Related elements: TELEOLOGICAL CONCEPT OF NATURE – BASICS OF LIFE – HOMO OECONOMICUS & HOMO POLITICUS – IGNORANCE – SUSTAINABILITY & JUSTICE – POWER OF JUDGEMENT – RESPONSIBILITY – ABSOLUTE & RELATIVE SCARCITY