Acadia Senior College

Course offerings

A Brief History of the Dismal Science (Part 2): Value – The Original Problem of Economics

David Dawson

Church of Our Father, 91 State Highway 3, Hulls Cove
How are “things” valued and how are prices determined? Why are diamonds more valuable than water? This core question of economics has fascinated philosophers, scientists and economists for centuries and is still debated today. This class explores the evolution of theories of value beginning with Aristotle and The Scholastics (St. Thomas Aquinas) and running through the classical period (Adam Smith, et al.) and the “Marginal Revolution” (Jevons, Walras, et al.) to the highly mathematized market theory (Arrow, Debreu, Samuelson) that dominates much of academic economics today and the value of which is the subject of a great deal of debate (no math background required!). Finally, the class will try to decide if economics is more akin to science or religion.
About the instructor

David Dawson has a BS in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh and training in Biophysics from Yale. In his 41-year career, he taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and the Oregon Health Science University where he was Chair of Physiology and Pharmacology. After his retirement in 2014, he began to study Economic History and recently delivered the Hugh Davson Lecture to the American Physiological Society, entitled “Membranes and Macroeconomics: What I learned from CFTR, Bob Dylan and Adam Smith.” This is the second course he has offered in the Acadia Senior College.

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