1. Essay 1: Are you someone who wonders if life’s practical side is only half of what makes life worth living? May 21, 2010
According to Bertrand Russell, the practical man is one who is primarily concerned with meeting immediate needs, doesn’t recognize the need for mental nourishment, and whose ideas are simply a product of the environment he lives in. In contrast, the philosophical man is primarily concerned with things of the mind, with finding and contemplating questions of much greater significance, whose views are formed intentionally after careful consideration. I feel like I am someone who wonders if life’s practical side is only half of what makes it worth living, but I often struggle to find a way to meaningfully explore a philosophical view and make contemplating a daily part of my life. I seem to have found a small compromise between the two, in what I consider the economic point of view.
I find myself in constant pull between a practical view and a philosophical view. It can be very difficult when life is busy and complicated to think beyond the next item on the to-do list. Yet at times it can feel overwhelmingly important to find a way to hold on to a broader, more contemplative view of life and the world we live in and interact with. I’m majoring in economics, and I’ve found that the longer I study economics, the more my entire world view has come to be dominated by the economic way of thinking. To me, this economic viewpoint is an improvement on a purely practical view, but still some way from truly being a philosophical view. I have found this type of approach to life to be much more fulfilling than a purely practical life, but it does leave much to be desired. In time, I hope to become more philosophical.
Initially, the study of economics seems purely practical. It has many applications in business, finance, and all sorts of other, very practical matters. We study how price equilibrates supply and demand, how jobs are created, how goods are produced, etc. However, economics can also encompass more philosophical issues as well. How do we balance our own interests with what is fair and just to others? How can we be wise stewards of scarce resources?
The study of economics does a good job of identifying the difference between positive statements and normative statements, and there are economic schools of thought that have very strong normative views. Macroeconomics, or the study of economic systems as a whole, takes a particularly broad view of how people place value on scarce resources and find ways of meeting the greatest number of people’s needs. Macroeconomic theorists frequently involve elements of philosophy in their analysis. In many ways, I feel like economics can be thought of as an outward expression of inward philosophical views. You can learn a lot about what a society values by looking at how their economy functions.
The economic point of view is an improvement upon a purely practical point of view in that it...