Humanities has a poor reputation. Trust me, I’m an MFA student. When I tell family members I’m an MFA student, the follow up question they won’t ask out of politeness is: Do I have a plan after I graduate. My imaginary response I would never say out of politeness would be: Of course I have a fucking plan. Although, I’m not sure I have a plan.
Once upon a time, I was a biology major on my way to become America’s next cardiothoracic surgeon. Looking back, I see that telling strangers and family members I was studying biology had greater prestige than acknowledging that what I really wanted was to be a broadcast journalist and writer. Thus, today’s essay topic: Your prestige majors and career choices need humanities’ complicated, philosophical questions. Specifically, economics. Let me explain:
About a month ago I read a 2014 article on Psychology Today, on whether greed is a good thing. The article stated that the idea of morality haunts humans throughout their short lives and conflicts strong survival instincts. With this comes anxiety about purpose and value. Out comes the questions: what is the meaning of life? Or for the go-getters: how can I be the best? There’s a theory that with this existential dread, greed has become programmed in our genes to promote survival and in order to achieve change. Greed has become a fuel—it can grow or destroy a community or economy.
I guess my mind went off on an existential tangent (as it does when I read any Psychology Today article), because I began to wonder if greed was necessary to run anything successful, and whether, in a sense, it can be a good thing. Then, of course, a question popped in my mind in the early AM that I immediately wrote down to Google after work:
Is economics basically philosophy with numbers?
We use logic in economics. Economists monitor and predict economic trends, analyze data, and formulate economic models explaining business cycles. Economists breathe their own logic in hopes that it’s legitimate. Logic is a branch of philosophy. See where I’m going with this?
Economics needs logic. Logic needs philosophy. Therefore, economics needs philosophy.
Economics was born out of philosophy. The father of economics is Adam Smith, who was an 18th century philosopher, a major proponent of laissez-fair economic policies, who created the concept of GDP. And then we have Aristotle who analyzed economic processes and developed a theory that states individual human action of using wealth is what constitutes the economic dimension.
Philosophy and economics overlap in social ethics. Ethics is needed in judgment, and decent judgment on how the economy should be managed needs ethical theory. I most certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to economics and philosophy, and I feel like this entire essay was just one big question on whether market values and morality can align.
I always go for humor in writing when it presents itself.
Don’t say (another philosopher…it makes you sound condescending)