Existentialism and Keynes

  • Piero V. Mini


Any philosophical system answers three questions: What and how much can we hope to know? By what method do we acquire knowledge? And, what is the value of this knowledge? The previous two chapters have shown that in the rationalistic tradition the answer to the first question is: we can hope to know Forms or Being, that is, whatever is eternal, universal, immutable and logically necessary. Rationalism answers the second question ‘By what method do we acquire knowledge?’ by affirming the superiority of the intellect (mind, soul) in grasping Forms mathematically and logically. And it answers the third question, ‘What is the value of knowledge?’ by saying that knowledge has value for its own sake. The contemplation of Forms sub specie aeternitatis provides the highest pleasure known to man, the satisfaction of wonder. An attitude detached from the object of study follows logically. Robbins, as we saw, put the pure logic of economics ahead of the possibility of applying theory to matters of taxation and public finance, and Machlup and others all warned against giving ‘operational’ significance to the key concepts, terms and conclusions of economics.


Central Banker Pure Logic Paradise Lost Capitalist Environment High Pleasure 
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  1. 4.
    See, for instance, Robert G. Olson, An Introduction to Existentialism (New York: 1962), especially ch. II; Kurt F. Reinhardt, The Existentialist Revolt (New York: 1952), ch. 2.; William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (Garden City, New York: 1962).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Leo Tolstoy, ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’, in The Raid and Other Stories (Oxford, Oxford University Press: 1982), p. 259.Google Scholar

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© Piero V. Mini 1994

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