Abstract

History of Thought on Nature and Economy

Aristotle (384/3 – 322/1 B.C.) was the first to develop a proper doctrine of the economy and is considered the founder of economics as a science – apart from Xenophon (430 – 354 B.C.) and his treatise Oeconomicus. Aristotle regards the economy and politics as separate entities. Politics is the sphere of freedom, while the… Read more »

Introducing MINE

The MINE website explores the interplay between nature and economy. Focusing on such fundamental concepts as time, thermodynamics, evolution, homo politicus and justice, a new outline of economic activity emerges within nature. The dominant approach of Mainstream Economics, which considers nature as a subsystem of the economy, is thus replaced by a broader and more… Read more »

Power of Judgement

The concept of the power of judgement goes back to the Greek word phronesis which means prudence. Aristotle dealt with it, and in the 19th century Kant wrote his ground-breaking Critique of the Power of Judgement. Mainstream Economics traditionally is good at modelling predictable situations as well as situations with calculable risk. However, environmental issues… Read more »

Homo Oeconomicus and Homo Politicus

Mainstream Economics began considering human behaviour during the 17th century with the work of Thomas Hobbes. Its present assumption about behaviour is mainly that of homo oeconomicus: Human beings act according to their self-interest in a rational manner, hence they are utility maximisers. This element examines the model of homo oeconomicus, analysing its accomplishments and… Read more »

Joint Production

While an awareness of joint production (i.e. combined production of at least two goods) played a key role in the early years of classic economics and Marx’ thinking, it later fell into oblivion. Environmental crises have brought it back into practical and theoretical discussions. When physicists proved that industrial production is always attended by the… Read more »

Evolution

Darwin’s seminal book on biological evolution has triggered an ongoing debate on evolution, in biology and in general. Not until the 1960s did Mainstream Economics start to take up Joseph Schumpeter’s ideas of evolutionary thought for economic analysis in one of its branches, Evolutionary Economics. However, Mainstream Economics did not emphasise the relevance of his… Read more »

Responsibility

The concept of responsibility was addressed in philosophy in particular by Aristotle, Kant and Weber. This concept offers an overview of the philosophical understandings of responsibility, building up an approach that can deal with high complexity, the occurrence of novelty and irreducible ignorance. When dealing with responsibility, Mainstream Economics limits itself to responsibility for an… Read more »

Thermodynamics

During the 19th century physics underwent a revolution. Sadi Carnot, Lord Kelvin, Rudolf Clausius and others founded a new field of physics, thermodynamics, which focuses on the study of energy. Although energy is one of the most important economic production factors, thermodynamics does not play a key role in Mainstream Economics. However, energy is necessary… Read more »

Basics of Time

Whereas our concept of space seems well established, perhaps ‘hard-wired’ into our brains, time is altogether more elusive. Since Aristotle (or even before), the nature of time has been a source of contention among philosophers, both pure and natural. Mainstream Economics employs a restricted view of time, which in turn leads to a simplified analysis… Read more »

Ignorance

The phenomenon of ignorance was an issue in Greek philosophy as early as Plato’s first dialogues (e.g. Meno). The importance of the consciousness of ignorance is illustrated by the famous Oracle of Delphi: It acknowledged Socrates as the wisest of all human beings because he said, ‘I know that I know nothing’. Mainstream Economics is… Read more »

Irreversibility

During the 19th century, new insights into the concept of irreversibility were developed with the founding of thermodynamics. It turned out, that an understanding of time irreversibility requires a thermodynamic underpinning. In the second half of the 20th century, the physical chemist Ilya Prigogine discovered ground-breaking insights regarding irreversibility in self-organising systems, such as biological… Read more »

Basics of Life – Stores, Stocks & Funds

Life and forms of living beings began around 4 billion years ago. However, the terms stocks and stores have only developed as scientific concepts over the course of the last two centuries, while the term fund came into use even more recently (Georgescu-Roegen 1971). A fund can be understood as a source of services for… Read more »

Individual, Community & Entirety

The interests of human beings have been considered in different reflections throughout the history of humankind. Philosophers, theologians, political economists and famous literary writers have examined the different interests, like Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Alasdair MacIntyre and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to name a few. The challenge of this element is to develop… Read more »

Justice & Sustainability

Justice has been a well-established notion since antiquity – see e.g. the Politeia by Plato. As Socrates noted, a just state and a just soul is governed by reason, not by human desires. The notion of sustainability arose in public discourse with the ‘Report of the Club of Rome on the State of Humanity: The… Read more »

Teleological Concept of Nature

Aristotle employed the teleological approach to explain the world. The adjective teleological is derived from the Greek word telos which means ‘aim’. The teleological approach was used until the middle ages. It was largely abandoned in scientific discourse in favour of causal analysis. However, as Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) argued in his Critique of… Read more »

Environmental Politics

In ancient philosophy, practice existed only to create space for the wise to contemplate theory. In the ideal of modern science, however, science is an abstract system of cognition, providing the basis for technological control of nature. The stocks framework is an attempt to overcome the gap between theory and practice, between academics and practitioners…. Read more »

Absolute & Relative Scarcity

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 – 1834) introduced the notion of absolute scarcity of nature into classic economic thought. He maintained that a population grows faster than the food required to sustain the population, and that will eventually lead to a decline in the population. In contrast, Mainstream Economics focuses on relative scarcity which defines a… Read more »