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Gérard Debreu’s Values:: Axioms and Anecdotes

Till Düppe

A chapter in Including a Symposium on the Historical Epistemology of Economics, 2017, vol. 35A, pp 85-111 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract Economic ideas are the product of contemplation, but also of our economic lives. In the history of ideas, Gérard Debreu’s shining book of 1959, Theory of Value, represents the pinnacle of purity in contemplating economic life. Rather than contextualizing this oeuvre through his intellectual life, as is usually done, this essay describes his axiomatic analysis by contextualizing it through his economic life. What do we learn about Debreu’s axioms on consumption when thinking of his own consumption? What do we learn about his theory of value when thinking of his own values? Historiographically, this approach permits the use of a widely neglected source in the history of economics: anecdotes. Epistemologically, blending axioms and anecdotes offers a description of how axioms regulate an economic discourse. Finally, this essay offers a language for the material dimensions of economic life that are so underexposed in Debreu’s own work.

Keywords: Mathematical economics; axiomatic method; commodities; materiality; satisfaction; ad-hocery; Gérard Debreu (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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