Volume XI Issue 2

Spring 2018


1. Crises, confidence, and animal spirits: exploring subjectivity in the dualism of Descartes and Keynes

Sonya Scott.
This paper will explore the nuanced epistemological status of the economic subject in Keynes' work, alongside the physiology of the human subject in Descartes' Passions of the Soul and Treatise on Man. In both instances 'animal spirits' serve as an indicator of dualism within the subject. In Descartes, the spirits mediate between the soul and the body, between the rational and non-rational, by their effect on the pineal gland. In Keynes, animal spirits push up against a certain form of economic rationality and represent a non-rational impulse inherent to human nature that is often opposed to economic reason. While Keynes' conception of economic subjectivity extends well beyond the rationalism of many of his predecessors, the dualism presented in his work by means of the animal spirits is worth considering in philosophical terms. Ultimately this paper will conclude that Keynes' work contains an element of what Gilbert Ryle (1949) has termed the 'intellectualist legend,' that is, the philosophical assumption that we must think first, and then act, relegating spontaneous action to the realm of the 'animal' or the 'non-rational.'

2. Descartes and the notion of animal spirits: a brief historico-philosophical remark on Sonya Marie Scott's 'Crises, confidence, and animal spirits: exploring subjectivity in the dualism of Descartes and Keynes'

Kurt Smith.
In ‘Crises, confidence, and animals spirits: exploring subjectivity in the dualism of Descartes and Keynes,’ Sonya Marie Scott sets out to deepen our understanding of Keynes’ use of animal spirits in his influential work in economics, by exploring one of the sources from which he appears to have acquired the notion—in the work of Seventeenth-Century philosopher René Descartes. The examination to follow will focus almost exclusively on Descartes’s view, where I hope to bring to light, for future discussion, both historical and philosophical troubles lurking in the account of Descartes as found in Scott’s article. I shall focus on two issues: first, I shall say a few critical words about the analogy offered by Scott, the analogy between Descartes’s and Keynes’ respective ‘dualisms;’ secondly, I shall look briefly at Scott’s reading of Descartes on animal spirits. As a quick bit of preliminary stage-setting, let me preface my remarks with a brief account of Descartes’s dualism and his account of the human being.

3. Reclaiming the University: transforming economics as a discipline

Arne Heise.
Economics as a discipline is currently in disarray. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, academic experts, students, commentators, practitioners and politicians all questioned the status of academic economics and many called for a 'new economic thinking'. Nearly a decade later, however, there is little evidence of a transformation in research and teaching. The present study first clarifies what is meant by a transformation of economics as a discipline, since this remains an ill-defined term and may be interpreted in very different ways. It then establishes the conditions of a successful transformation of the discipline in terms of intra-disciplinary and extra-disciplinary factors. The paper argues that economics as a discipline cannot be expected to trigger this transformation by itself (i.e. via self-regulation), since the 'market for economic ideas' is prone to market failure. In addition, the influence of external factors and actors on the market may serve to distort the congruence between the individual researcher's utility and societal welfare. External incentives are therefore required to establish constitutional guardrails that ensure fair competition between ideas.

4. A comment on the law of supply and demand

M Buechner.
Graduate economics departments have largely abandoned the law of supply and demand (henceforth, The Law). Nevertheless, The Law continues to be taught in all undergraduate economics programs, and it is accepted as the fundamental law of price throughout the world. This paper explains how the modern conceptions of demand and supply as schedules have driven The Law from graduate economics. A reinterpretation of the meaning of supply and demand is suggested as the basis for bringing The Law back into the corpus of economic theory, that is, supply and demand should be conceived of the same way Adam Smith and the whole classical school conceived of them—as simple quantities.

5. A comment on 'Comment on the law of supply and demand'

Emil Dinga.
The paper briefly discusses some issues approached in the study ‘A comment on the law of supply and demand’ by M. Northrup Buechner, published in this issue of J Phil Econ. The way of discussing is logical-theoretical, without bringing into attention empirical data. Even less than that, only a few of the issues debated in the original study are examined, namely those issues which appeared to this author as both the most problematic and susceptible to drive the future discussion in the matter.