A World Ruled by Number
William Stanley Jevons and the Rise of Mathematical Economics
Margaret Schabas


If any single characteristic differentiates current, neoclassical economics from the classical economics of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, it is the use of mathematics. Pointing to the critical role of William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), Margaret Schabas demonstrates that the advent of mathematical economics in late Victorian England resulted more from new currents in logic and the philosophy of science than from problems specific to the classical theory of value and distribution.

Jevons's Principles of Science (1874) was the first book to take issue with John Stuart Mill's faith in inductive reasoning, to assimilate George Boole's mathematical logic, and to discern many of the limitations that beset scientific inquiry. Together with a renewed appreciation for Bentham's utility calculus, these philosophical insights served to convince Jevons and his followers that the economic world is fundamentally quantitative and thus amenable to mathematical analysis.

First published in 1990.

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