This is an exploratory critical essay on the Origins of Capital and the Foundations of Thermodynamics. In economics the existence of capital is taken for granted yet it is difficult to establish for it a robust definition. Capital theory addresses the coupling of the present with the future; as such it does not deal with its own history, evolution or its origins. The concern is the (discounted) future rather than the historical or even prehistorical past; at best, Hesiod's economy in his Works and Days marks the beginning of economic history. Yet, in its generic form, capital is but a physical or biological engine that processes materials and transforms energy in an environment of thermal non-equilibrium. The objective is to show the importance of capital in the comprehension of thermodynamics. I argue that the idea of scarcity as the fountain of history and its concomitant concept of value must be incorporated in the substance of thermodynamics and the meaning of measurement; this necessitates some excursions into the territory of economics with a review of capital theory, of evoluationary biology and the origins of life, and of the received ideas on thermodynamics. To discuss measurement - a long-standing quandary and the quintessential quantum problem - for lack of a better approach a formal hybrid pragmatist's outlook is retained in the form of virtual Cartesian dualism.
Audience: This work will be of interest to historians and philosophers of science and economics, and engineering thermodynamicists.
Series: Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science
Number Of Pages: 230
Published: 31st October 1997
Country of Publication: NL
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.5
Weight (kg): 1.17