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Four Issues in Socratic Economic Analysis

  • Barry Gordon

Abstract

The philosophers did not leave a legacy which merely recommended a manner of approach to economic issues. Their concern with the origins of social life and the maintenance of just relationships within it gave rise to a series of insights on particular problems in economics. Apart from those noted above in connection with their conception of economics, these insights included influential analyses touching on the theories of money and interest, the question of communal versus private ownership of resources, and the theory of value. The contributions of Aristotle in these areas are of special significance for the future development of economic thought in Europe. It is quite impossible to chart the course of that development without an appreciation of the positions he took and the ways in which those positions were interpreted. As one modern scholar has observed, ‘Aristotle’s influence on medieval city economy exerted through Thomas Aquinas was as great as later that of Adam Smith and David Ricardo on nineteenth century world economy.’1

Keywords

Economic Analysis Nicomachean Ethic Economic Thought Social Equilibrium Exchange Justice 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    K. Polanyi, ‘Aristotle Discovers the Economy’, in Karl Polanyi, Conrad M. Arensberg and Harry W. Pearson (eds), Trade and Market in the Early Empires N.Y., Free Press (1957) p. 65.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. Roll, A History of Economic Thought ( London, Faber, 1961 ) p. 31.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The foregoing criticisms are those of E. A. Havelock, The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics (London, Cape, 1957) pp. 359–64.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    E. Cannan, W. P. Ross, J. Bonar, P. H. Wicksteed, ‘Who said Barren Metal“?’, Economica, No. 5 (June 1922) pp. 105–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 29.
    Consult, J. J. Spengler, ‘Aristotle on Economic Imputation and Related Matters’, The Southern Economic Journal, XXI (Apr 1955) pp. 371–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 32.
    On the continuing influence of Aristotle see Emil Kauder, A History of Marginal Utility Theory (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1965) esp. pp. 15–29.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    J. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis ( New York, Oxford University Press, 1959 ) p. 61.Google Scholar
  8. 37.
    For a critical survey of some of the relevant literature, see Josef Soudek, ‘Aristotle’s Theory of Exchange. An Inquiry into the Origin of Economic Analysis’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 96, No. 1. (Feb 1952) pp 64–8.Google Scholar
  9. 40.
    The following remarks in this section of the chapter are based, in the main, on the findings of Josef Soudek, op. cit., and S. Todd Lowry, ‘Aristotle’s Mathematical Analysis of Exchange’, History of Political Economy Vol. 1., No. 1. (Spring 1969) pp. 44–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 41.
    Sir Thomas Heath, A Manual of Greek Mathematics ( Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1931 ) p. 51.Google Scholar
  11. 42.
    Sir Thomas Heath, The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements, Vol. II (Cambridge University Press, 1926 ) p. 189.Google Scholar
  12. 50.
    A. C. Pigou (ed.), Memorials of Alfred Marshall (1925) p. 451.Google Scholar
  13. 51.
    J. Viner, Studies in the Theory of International Trade ( London, Allen and Unwin, 1955 ) p. 536.Google Scholar
  14. 53.
    Cf. George Dalton (ed.), Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economics: Essays of Karl Polanyi(N.Y., Doubleday, 1968) pp. 79–80, where it is claimed that Aristotle explored ‘the problem of man’s livelihood with a radicalism of which no later writer on the subject was capable — none has ever penetrated deeper into the material organisation of man’s life.’Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1975

Authors and Affiliations

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

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