Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems

The elevation of pecuniary self-interest into the carefully selected criterion for distinguishing activity capable of economic analysis marked a significant advance over the earlier classical position. Even granting that economic man was a monstrous caricature, he was yet a being who acted, and it was his actions that were the object of study. The earlier writers had taken wealth as their subject matter; to the economists after the 1830’s wealth was important merely as the object that aroused the particular kind of human behavior in which the economist was interested. Considerable effort has been devoted to the finding of traces of subjectivistic thinking in economics prior to 1870. A fair body of literature during this period has been brought to light in which may be seen the beginning of the reaction against the objective value theories of the classical school. It is tempting to see asignificant parallel to this reaction against classical objectivism in the shift in outlook on the nature of economics from the conception of it as a science of wealth to the view that regarded it as the study of the man in quest of wealth. To Ricardo, who “stopped at the valuations of the market and did not press through to the valuations of the individual,” political economy was perfectly acceptable when conceived as an investigation into an aspect of the phenomena of wealth, with the relevant factors of human nature relegated completely to the background. To a Bailey or a Senior, whose outlook on value was further advanced, such a view must necessarily seem inadequate.

Excerpt from Essays Upon Heredity: And Kindred Biological Problems ..

WeismannEssays on Heredity and Kindred Biological Subjects.

Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Subjects ..

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Essays upon heredity and kindred biological problems, by Dr

Now, these are issues that concern basic epistemological problemsfar wider than the range of this book. Closely though they relate to the praxeological view of the nature of the economic aspect of affairs, they themselves are concerned with inquiries into the nature of science and knowledge that would carry us far away from our own subject. Professor Robbins has gone so far as to relegate completely to philosophy all such discussions concerning the a priori character of economics. Mises, Knight, and Hayek have most vigorously justified the kind of introspection that is necessary for the conception of economic knowledge as “scientific” without being empirically “testable.” We are not so much concerned here with the scientific validity that may be attributed to a priori economics as with the clarification of the precise sense in which the praxeological conception of the economic point of view does, in fact, imply a strictly a priori position.

Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological ..
Essays upon heredity and kindred biological problems / Edited by Edward B

from Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems ..

Yet in spite of the progress represented by the conception of economic activity as motivated essentially by pecuniary self-interest, this view still, of course, bears obvious signs of its close relationship to the earlier definitions of economics as the science of wealth. In fact, economics as the science of avarice is most illuminatingly understood as the link between economics as the science of wealth and the more sophisticated conceptions of the subject that have emerged in recent decades. The concept of wealth involved the postulation of some common quality in the objects constituting wealth—a quality that was generally identified as “material” or as catering to the “lower” needs of man. These objects themselves were the focus of economic attention. By shifting this focus of attention away from wealth itself and towards acting man in his quest for wealth, Mill and Bailey were still obliged to assign a significant role to wealth. And the qualities common to the objects constituting wealth became perhaps even more pivotal to economic analysis, since it was attraction towards these qualities that kindled and conditioned the avarice of economic man.

Those essays were collated in English in 1889’s Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological ..

Essays on Heredity and Kindred Biological Subjects (E ..

Whatever definition of economics may be adopted, it is clear that the conception of its subject has become wider than it was...The economist of today recognizes that he has to do with man in relation to one particular kind of human welfare...Ever since would be impossible for any economist of the present day to repeat Malthus’ remark that Adam Smith mixes the nature and causes of the wealth of nations with the causes which affect the happiness and comfort of the lower orders of society.

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After 1870, attempts to define the nature of the economic were definitely colored by the intellectual background of the period. In Germany, Austria, and England economists were paying a good deal of attention indeed to the necessity for reconstructing economics “from the ground up.” This necessity was proclaimed by both groups that were in reaction against the hitherto dominant classical economics. Those following Roscher, Hildebrand, and Knies in their revolt against the abstract reasoning of Ricardian–type economics, as well as those who with Menger and Jevons were dissatisfied with the objectivism of the classical economists—all were imbued with the desire to make over the entire discipline. Inevitably this desire was accompanied by a flourishing self–consciousness on the part of economists in regard to the status of their discipline as a science, its relation to kindred branches of learning, and, in general, its objectives and the kind of knowledge it might be expected to furnish. Together with their researches into economic problems proper, the leaders of bothnew schools of economic thought felt called upon to still both their own misgivings and those of the public at large concerning the nature and significance of a subject whose methods of approach, after a century of study, its own students were branding as unsound.