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Marshall 'engine for the discovery of truth'

1. Keynes said that "Jevons saw the kettle boil and cried out with the delighted voice of a child; Marshall too had seen the kettle boil and sat down silently to build an engine". Explain and discuss.
2. "The legacy of Marshall is riven by ambiguity." Discuss critically.

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Keynes said that "Jevons saw the kettle boil and cried out with the delighted voice of a child; Marshall too had seen the kettle boil and sat down silently to build an engine." Explain and discuss.

Jevons was an economist of the late 19th century to whom Marshall was often compared. On occasion, Marshall would use it as a pen name. Marshall improved on his view by holding that utility, expressed in numeric terms, was not only the whole of economics, but the whole of life. The quote above is about Marshall's care in publishing his works.

What of this this "machine" or "engine of truth?" It is a mechanical model of the mind. It is economics itself (really, any social science). Mechanical in the sense that it deals purely with cause and effect in patterns that are easy to understand and totally predictable. To some extent, it is taken from Locke's epistemology. There is a "lower" level that takes in sensory input and abstracts from them. Red things can have "red" abstracted from them, or "being" or "thing." The upper level translates these abstractions and all they are associated with to action. More specifically, to the different possible consequences of any specific action.

Remember, Marshall saw economics as an aspect of biology. It is a complex system always in the process of evolution. However, it is a system based purely on cause and effect, and so each aspect of the system and the consequences of any action can be predicted perfectly, so long as you have the right method. He states, however, in his Principles of Economics:

The term "law" means then nothing more than a general proposition or statement of tendencies, more or less certain, more or less definite. Many such statements are made in every science: but we do not, indeed we can not, give to all of them a formal character and name them as laws. We must select; and the selection is directed less by purely scientific considerations than by practical convenience. If there is any general statement which we want to bring to bear so often, that the trouble of quoting it at length, when needed, is greater than that of burdening the discussion with an additional formal statement and an additional technical name, then it receives a special name, otherwise not (I.iii.11, sec 4).

This does not mean that he believes in ...

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The discusses the Marshall 'Engine for the Discovery of Truth.'

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