Which Economists Should I Teach In My Philosophy Class?


On the left: Marx

I teach the Modern to Contemporary Philosophy class at my university.  I have decided to add a new lesson next time: After we cover Marx, we’re going to survey some other economist-philosophers from Marx’ time and afterwards.


On the right: Smith

Which economists should I cover? At present, my plan for this lesson covers Bastiat, Von Mises, Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman.  If you’re going to cover, say, six to eight economists of the 1800s and 1900s in a philosophy class, does the best list consist of these guys + Marx?

I have no intention of dropping Marx; he’s just too influential to ignore.  But I would love to hear your list of five to seven others.  (Many of you know more economists than I do, and others who may be as uninformed as I am may be uninformed in a different direction!)

Published in Economics, General, Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Ricochet Member

    It has dawned on me only gradually that the use of the name “Friedman” without a first name may have caused some confusion.  I was talking about Milton Friedman.  How many of you said just “Friedman” and meant someone else?

    • #91
  2. Ricochet Member

    Even though I can’t possibly do justice to all of these economists, I should at least be able to come back to this threat anytime and see in the tallies an overview of some of the vast fields of my ignorance of the field of economics.  That should be helpful.

    For now, I’m adding Coase to the lesson plan as an honorable mention with a few points of explanation.  I can’t understand much without putting in more time than I can afford.  But I think I can understand the lighthouses well enough.

    Maybe I’ll know Coase better in the future.

    • #92
  3. Ricochet Member

    Several characters are now coming together nicely in my little mind, and giving me the chance to bring several characters into dialogue with Marx.  From the Wikipedia article on Alfred Marshall:

    His book, Principles of Economics (1890), was the dominant economic textbook in England for many years. It brings the ideas of supply and demand,marginal utility, and costs of production into a coherent whole. . . . . . . In a broader sense Marshall hoped to reconcile the classical and modern theories of value. John Stuart Mill had examined the relationship between the value of commodities and their production costs, on the theory that value depends on effort expended in manufacture. Jevons and the Marginal Utility theorists had elaborated a theory of value based on the idea of maximising utility, holding that value depends on demand. Marshall’s work used both these approaches . . . .

    So Marx thinks the value of a product is the cost of labor alone, right?  That’s a supply issue. Mill looks at other supply costs.

    And Jevons looks at demand as a theory of the value of a product.

    And Marshall integrates both supply and demand in his understanding of the value of a product.

    I might make this part of the main lesson plan.  (The opportunity cost will be even less time available for BastiatKeynes, etc., or less time to look at honorable mentions.)

    • #93
  4. Muleskinner Member

    Augustine:Several characters are now coming together nicely in my little mind, and giving me the chance to bring several characters into dialogue with Marx. From the Wikipedia article on Alfred Marshall:

    I think you have it. Consumers maximizing utility given a budget constraint, and producers maximizing profits subject to cost constraints determine prices and quantities. With this, you move from Smith and Marx and the Classical economists to Neoclassical economics. The diamond/water paradox is solved, and much of Marx is based on the mistaken Labor Theory of Value.

    The notion of “value” creates a whole other philosophical issue. When are prices and values the same thing? I think Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    • #94
  5. Ricochet Member

    Well, again, Thank You To Everyone!  This has been very helpful for me, and my lesson plans are much improved (though I may have to cut a day from our earlier study of Francis Bacon to make room for them, since this looks like much more than 1 day of material).

    I may just quit here.  Or I may keep at it and look into some of the other philosophers who’ve been mentioned here.

    If anyone really wants to keep this thread going, keep at it.  (Maybe I can copy my lesson plans here.  Some can learn from them, and others can probably teach me more that way.)

    Again, thank you.  You’re awesome.  I’m sure I’ll see most of you in the other threads talking about SSM or something.

    • #95
  6. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson

    If you want to make the course very contemporary,   I would consider including a section on complexity economics,  which is rising rapidly due to our increased understanding of information theory,  chaos,  and complexity.

    You could start with the Austrian critique of economic ‘scientism’,  of using incorrect mechanistic models to understand what is essentially an ecosystem – a complex adaptive system,  and lead into work being done at the Santa Fe institute and elsewhere.  You could add in how information theory is contributing to a modern view of economics,  in which case a great document for class reading would be Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society”,  which in turn is informed by the work of Claude Shannon  who basically founded the field of information theory.

    Here’s a good introduction:  Santa Fe Institute Q & A on Complexity Economics

    Complexity economics can be looked at as the re-invigoration of the Austrian school – a rejection of static equilibria, aggregates, and other high-level concepts relied upon by neoclassical economists up until today,  in favor of a view that says economic change can’t be predicted or easily modeled or even measured,  and that interventions in the economy will not have the desired outcome but will inevitably lead to unintended consequences.

    • #96
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