Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Civilian Servant with Mathematical Mind: Hermann Heinrich Gossen

Kohegyi Gergely, Institute of Economics, Corvinus University of Budapest

In parallel with the protagonists of marginalism, in the country where 'Cameralwissenschaft' and the German historical school were the dominant traditions in economic thinking, Hermann Heinrich Gossen, an author in a complete intellectual isolation, worked out a whole mathematical theory of value and exchange. In his single book, Gossen failed to refer his predecessors, and in general, we know extremely little about him and his inspirations. Since Gossen had been trained as a civilian servant, one of the greatest puzzle regarding him is to explore, how he have got the idea and the necessary tools to generate an inherently mathematical theory about human relations. First, this paper establishes a more direct link between Gossen and Daniel Bernoulli than the earlier results in this field. Second, it attempts to explain Gossen's particular style of mathematical reasoning by connecting him to the circle of mathematicians at University of Bonn. Third, the paper also presents a documented relationship between Gossen and the mathematical theories of psychology of the period. The results are based on the careful review of the scarce available sources about Gossen, and more importantly, on the investigation of new unexplored archival documents.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Marginalism, Gossen, Mathematics, Theory of value, Archival research

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