Reflections of Eminent Economists
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Reflections of Eminent Economists

Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan

In this collection of autobiographical essays, 26 prominent scholars detail their professional development, while offering insight into their lives and philosophies. With candor and humor they relate how they came to the field of economics, as well as how their views have evolved over the years.
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Chapter 24: Philosophy and My Work Life

Julian L. Simon

Extract

24. Philosophy and my work life* Julian L. Simon I As a 17-year-old starting college, I was anxious to study what the great philosophers taught about how to conduct our lives well. My second (and last) course was a selective gallop through Western thought. I enjoyed it and did much of the extensive reading. But though some of the philosophy of science made sense, much of the rest seemed meaningless to me. Most especially, the pompously unreadable school of Hegelian German philosophy seemed a fraud on the public; pure obscurantist nonsense, I concluded. When much later I read John Locke’s and David Hume’s similar judgments about the bulk of academic philosophers, they fortified my doubts. The exam for the philosophy course was the last of five, so I let it slide. Then the night before the exam I could not find my class notes, which were unusually important in that course. Naturally, I panicked. A philosophy major upstairs lent me his notebook for a few hours, but it didn’t help much. I then had the inspiration to ask him to teach me some impressive-sounding German words that I could insert into my exam essays. He did so. And the next day, for the first and last time in my life, I faked the answers on an exam. The result? During my first three semesters I had not received even an A minus. This time I got a straight A, and my phil major friend upstairs – who had been doing very...

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