A Prophet and a Pioneer

  • David Cowan
Part of the Great Thinkers in Economics book series (GTE)


The subtitle for this book on Frank Hyneman Knight (1885–1972) is in part inspired by what his students said of him, which is “There is no God, but Frank Knight is his prophet.” However, the main reason for the title is that it is one that describes the voice that Knight had in the economics profession in his time, namely that of prophet in the deep sense in which theologians talk about prophecy. The popular conception of a prophet is of someone who warns believers of the future. The more refined view is that a prophet is someone who reveals laws, speaks to the nature of persons as they are and warns them of the path they should tread and the outcome of their errors. Biblical prophets were not particularly popular people, because they had a habit of telling people what they did not want to hear. Knight, whose curmudgeonly persona was not out of place with a Jeremiah or Isaiah, was similarly direct and sought to reveal economic truths, warning us, cajoling us in the hope of eliciting a realistic response. As one of my old teachers wrote of prophetic speech, “Contingent language is not directly predictive but is threatening or warning. It is not designed to forecast the future but to create responses” (Carroll 1979, p. 67). Knight certainly tried to create responses.


Economic History Neoclassical Economic Chicago School Price Theory Perfect Competition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Cowan
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston CollegeBostonUSA

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