A new feature here at “Taking Hayek Seriously”.
Up this morning — F. A. Hayek’s essay “The Rules of Morality Are Not the Conclusion of Our Reason”. This essay was published in 1987 in a volume titled Centripetal Forces in the Sciences, Vol. 1, edited by Gerard Radnitzky, pp. 227-235. The essay was written in the period when Hayek was completing The Fatal Conceit, and the place of publication reflects Hayek’s working relationship with William Bartley during those late years of Hayek’s working life.
From the essay:
Although not the conclusions of our reason, the traditional rules of morality are nevertheless an indispensable condition of the very existence of present mankind — an existence we cannot alter at will to please our tastes, and one which we can at most endeavor gradually to develop or improve within a framework which is given to us.
Evidently what Adam Smith saw clearly was that man had never adopted the morals of property and exchange because he understood the benefits he would derive from them.
And also this:
Morals as a distinct capacity between instinct and reason, even as an endowment equivalent or perhaps superior to reason because they enabled man to take account of circumstances beyond the range of his perception, were accepted by religious men who believed in a superior power like the human mind but of a greater penetration, a power that had arranged things. But this belief became unacceptable to seventeenth century rationalists and their descendants and with this the respect for traditional morals dwindled.
I’ll revise this post, extend it, and add additional commentary throughout the week.