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The Socratic Conception of Economics

  • Barry Gordon

Abstract

The direction in which the Sophists led economics was not to be pursued again with vigour until the latter part of the sixteenth century A.D. Plato and Aristotle reacted against the mercantilist tendencies of their intellectual opponents, and this reaction was to prove decisive. Further, they refused to treat economics as a technology. Consideration of the relative desirability of alternate goals of economic action was at the core of their conception of the discipline. In this chapter, we examine both the philosophers’ rejection of the growth of wealth of the nation as the object of economic enquiry, and then, the type of science of choice amongst ends which they sought to promote as the appropriate form of study. First, however, it is necessary to appreciate the coincidence of historical events and intellectual currents which produced such a radical change of direction in the progress of economics.

Keywords

Economic Analysis Good Life Acquisitive Activity Plastic Ideal Household Management 
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Notes

  1. 4.
    K. Polanyi, `Aristotle Discovers the Economy’, in K. Polanyi, C. M. Arensberg, and H. W. Pearson (eds), Trade and Market in the Early Empires ( Free Press, N.Y., 1957 ) p. 79.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    On this aspect of Smith’s thought see W. J. Samuels, The Classical Theory of Economic Policy (Cleveland, 1966) p. 67, andGoogle Scholar
  3. E. G. West, Education and the State (London, 1965 ) p. 118.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    S. T. Lowry, ‘The Classical Greek Theory of Natural Resource Economics’, Land Economics, XLI, No. 8 (Aug 1965) p. 208.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. I (London, Allen and Unwin, 1954 ) pp. 316–17.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    A. W. Gouldner, Enter Plato ( London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967 ) p. 110.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Werner Werner Jaeger, Aristotle, Fundamentals of the History of his Development ( Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1934 ) p. 389.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    M. Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation ( Glencoe, Free Press, 1947 ) p. 162.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    N. E. Long, introduction to E. J. Meehan, Value Judgement and Social Science (1969), pp. v–vi.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I (London, Allen and Unwin, 1938 ) p. 130.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleAustralia

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