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Abstract

Since Thales first stumbled into his well, “Philosophy” and “Money” have been considered mutually dissonant. Popular consciousness has always associated philosophy with “other-worldly asceticism.” Did not Socrates distinguish himself from the Sophists by the simple fact that he did not receive money for his work? Did not Diogenes, the cynical philosopher, say that he went to Athens to debase its currency?1 George Berkeley himself, when he embarked on one of the earliest Anglican missionary ventures to the Americas, was labeled a “true philosopher” by Dean Jonathan Swift because he was quite eager to give up an ecclesiastic sinecure of 1000 pounds sterling a year.2

Keywords

International Monetary Fund Precious Metal Vital Debate Early Eighteenth Century Silver Coinage 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    This Socratic claim was taken by many with a grain of salt, as was Plato’s fee-free self-definition. Plato’s Academy did not charge mandatory fees but the material conditions that made this possible were treated with suspicion by contemporaries. That garden god, Epicurus, called Plato’s cronies “toadies of Dionysus” and ironically dubbed Plato as “the golden one” with good reason. Diogenes Laertius, in his Life of Plato, reported that the Syracusean tyrant Dionysus bestowed more than 80 talents to Plato during his stay in Sicily. The stories connecting Socrates’ other great follower, Diogenes, with the defacement of the currency are carefully reviewed by Luis E. Navia in Navia (1996: 87–93). Diogenes’ father, Hicesias, was a “banker” or an issuer of coins in his native Sinope, in Asia Minor. Among the many variants of the story, either Diogenes and/or Hicesias defaced, counterfeited, or produced defective coins. This was a serious crime and Diogenes was forced to flee Sinope. Either before or after that incident, Diogenes went to the oracle of Delphi or Delos to ask a question about this future, the answer was “Falsify (or, depending on our choice of meaning, counterfeit, alter, or deface) the currency.” There have been attempts to try to verify this story via numismatic evidence and there have been efforts to see these stories as Cynical allegories, perhaps devised by Diogenes himself, to give a graphic image of his aim: “the rejection of all established bourgeois norms and the introduction of values based on the pursuit of virtue,” Navia (1996: 90).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Swift (1963: 30–33) wrote this letter to Lord Carteret in the midst of the “Wood’s Half-pence” crisis and Swift described Berkeley in the following way: “He [Berkeley] is an absolute philosopher with respect to Money, Titles or Power; and for 3 years past hath been struck with a Notion of founding an University at Bermudas by Charter from the Crown, & Contribution of those whom he can persuade to them… His Heart will break if his Deanery be not soon taken from him or left to your Excellency’s disposal. I tryed to discourage Him by urging to Coldness of Courts and Ministers and who will interpret all this visionary or impossible; But all in vain: And therefore I do humbly entreat your Excellency either to use such Persuasions as will keep one of the first Men in this Kingdom for Virtue and Learning, quiet at home, or assist him by your Credit to compass his Romantik Design.”Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hacking (1975: 35) refers to Berkeley as an “ideaist” but one might more properly call him an “anti-ideaist,” as we shall see.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Yeats (1938: 267–69). The poem is aptly titled “Blood and the Moon.”Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The very interdisciplinarity of the field makes bibliographic fuzziness inevitable, but some early 1980s works should include books by literary critics like Heinzelman (1980) and Shell (1982). A more recent contribution to the field is my study of Locke in Caffentzis (1989).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Douglas Vickers in Vickers (1959: 141) wrote: “The significance of Berkeley’s Querist for the development of monetary analysis has been only scantily recognized in the historical literature. A more adequate recognition has had to await the shift of emphasis of macro-economic analysis to the neo-mercantilist positions of the last two decades of the present century. This has made possible the estimate by Johnston, for example, who concludes that ‘in his analysis of the nature of money itself, and of the function of good in relation to it, Berkeley... takes high rank as one of the most modern and “advanced” of monetary thinkers.’”Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    There has been no full-length monograph on The Querist since Leyton (1938) and a set of articles on the economic circumstances of The Querist’s publication in Johnston (1970).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a lively account of “the Bubble” see Carswell (1961) while Galbraith (1975) has a humorous account of John Law’s Parisian escapades. The now definitive study of John Law is Murphy (1997).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Craig (1946: 47–48). In this account of the maneuvering around the Irish Mint question, we can see that Newton was an astute political tactician. Consider the following excerpt: “The Board in which Newton was Warden bludgeoned a second appeal [for an Irish Mint] in 1698 in violent and opprobrious terms. Now, 1701, being Master, and having to deal with a third approach, Newton steered for a compromise in language of careful courtesy. How he had studied the political background is shown by a precis in his hand of Molyneux’s book [an early defense of Irish independence from English Parliamentary rule]; perhaps for that reason, the disadvantages to England of an Irish Mint are but darkly hinted at as a thing too high for mere Mint judgment. The emphasis is on the importance of uniformity of coin, the costliness and infirmities of small mints. Uniformity he no doubt asked for in good faith, but as the English shilling stood at thirteen pence in Ireland, and the Irish wanted besides to make a profit, it was enough to quench Dublin zeal. At any rate the project died without need of the half measure.”Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    There is very little written on Berkeley’s interest in music and depression but Brykman (1974) is a start. Berkeley’s contribution to the debate on the Molyneux problem is more prominent in the scholarly literature, of course. See Morgan (1972: 59–62) for a historical contextualization of Berkeley’s position in the controversy. The review of Atherton (1990) would bring the reader more up to date on the current discussion of Berkeley and the Molyneux problem.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The discussion of Irish “underdevelopment” has a long history with Berkeley, Malthus, and Marx as central figures. Indeed, for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political economists, Ireland was the very model of underdevelopment. Ironically enough, twentieth century theories of underdevelopment devised to explain African and Asian economies are now being reflected back to the Irish situation (past and present). For example, Raymond (1982) attempts to reflate the “Sinn Fein”-Marxist interpretation of Irish history by calling in support from “dualist” theories (pioneered to explain Indonesian economic history) and “motivation”-entrepreneur theories developed for the Asian context as well. Raymond writes that Irish underdevelopment was not due to English oppression but on its own inherited pre-capitalist limits: “Ireland was a relatively stabilized society, historically rooted in a peasant agricultural economy, taking as fixed given horizons and a given hierarchical ranking of statuses based on birth, land and localism. This is an institutional system that tied occupation and property to family units proudly conscious of their distinctive identity over successive generations; and emphasized traditional, personal and communal relationships as against the impersonality of a wide range of capitalist institutions. The whole range of ideas powerfully mobilized sentiments for traditionalism and continuity as against change, mobility and innovation” (p. 664). For more on dualistic economy theory see Paauw and Fei (1973). Of course, dualistic theories simply assume the duality between capitalist and pre-capitalist economic sectors as given, or a matter of choice (as Raymond’s quasi-mythic sketch of Irish history quoted above suggests). Marx looked at the duality in other terms, of course, as he wrote to Kugelman (29 Nov. 1869): “In fact, England never has and never can—so long as the present relations last—rule Ireland otherwise than by the most abominable reign of terror and the most reprehensible corruption,” McLellan, ed. (1977). For a useful compendium of Marx’s and Engels’ writings on Ireland see Marx and Engels (1972).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    This is now becoming increasingly recognized in standard development theory. See, for example, Drake (1980), especially chapter four on “limited purpose” and “partial” monies.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    For an important account of Locke’s “thanatocratic” policies with respect to the English Poor see Linebaugh (1991: ch. 1).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a discussion of the oil politics context of the ABU massacre see my article “Rambo on the Barbary Shore” in Midnight Notes, eds. (1992).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For a discussion of the socioeconomic dynamics of the “Great Books” debate of the late 1980s see Federici, ed. (1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constantine George Caffentzis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern MaineUSA

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