Table of Contents

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.

Chapter 91: Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903–1930)

K. Vela Velupillai and Ragupathy Venkatachalam

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


If I was to write a Weltanschaung I should call it not “What I believe” but “What I feel.” This is connected with Wittgenstein’s view that philosophy does not give us beliefs, but merely relieves feelings of intellectual discomfort. . . . I don’t feel the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. (Ramsey 1931: 290–91) In one of those extraordinary serendipities with which greatness is tinged, and Frank  Ramsey – despite the cruelty of a life cut short at its prime – was blessed with an abundance of it, he was born in Cambridge on 22 February 1903, the year the defining works of the twentieth century in ethics and the foundations of mathematics were published: Principia Ethica by G.E. Moore and the Principles of Mathematics by Bertrand  Russell, the latter presaging the monumental Principia Mathematica (written jointly with Whitehead). With equal irony, Ramsey died in London, on 19 January 1930, the year Kurt Gödel announced his famous incompleteness theorem(s) in Königsberg. With the celebrated Paris–Harrington results (Paris and Harrington 1977), the connection between Ramsey’s posthumously published classic, On a Problem of Formal Logic (Ramsey 1928a, 1928b), and Gödel’s pioneering results have been shown to be woven from the same foundational fabric of the Entscheidungsproblem that Hilbert had formulated, to settle, decisively, the grundlagenkrise of the 1920s, precipitated by Brouwer’s intuitionistic and constructive challenges....

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