Stanley Jevons

Stanley Jevons newIn existographies, William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) (IQ:175|#228) (GEcE:#) (CR:28), aka "W. Stanley Jevons", was an English economist, natural philosopher, and oft-cited general polymath noted for his theories on utility, for his no origin theory of life ideas, and for his statement of the three moral body problem.

Three moral body problem
See main: Three moral body problem
In 1872, English economist Alfred Marshall, in a review of Jevons’ Theory of Political Economy (1871), stated the following: [8]

“Just as the motion of every body in the solar system affects and is affected by the motion of every other, so it is with the elements or the problem of political economy.”

In 1874, Jevons, in his Principles of Science, discussed how any “complete theory of morals must deal with quantities of pleasure and pain”, citing Jeremy Bentham, in reference to the general tendency of each kind of action in relation to the good of the general community, then stated the following: [9]

“If we are to apply scientific methods to morals, we must have a calculus of moral effects, a kind of physical astronomy investigating the mutual perturbations of individuals. But as astronomers have not yet fully solved the problem of three gravitating bodies, when shall we have a solution of the problem of three moral bodies?”

In 1881, Irish mathematical economist Francis Edgeworth, citing, it seems, Jevons, amid a general discussion of his work, stated the following: [10]

“What can be expected from mathematics in social science, when she is unable to solve the problem of three bodies in her own department?”

Edgeworth goes on to argue that, via principle discovered by Joseph Lagrange, i.e. Lagrangian, according to which the action or the time-integral of energies of the summation of the velocities of the particles of the system should tend to a maximum, as expanded upon by William Hamilton, i.e. Hamiltonian, according to which the velocity of each part is regarded as derivable from the action of the whole, or the time integral of energy, the following can be arrived at:

“A solution practical and philosophical, although not numerical and precise, as it exists for the problem of the interaction of bodies, so is possible for the problem of the interaction of souls.”

This is all fairly clever logic—humorously as it sounds on first pass—according to which, in modern language, the Hamiltonian, via the expanded logic of Rudolf Clausius (1865) and Willard Gibbs (1876) becomes the Gibbsian, according to which the free energy of the social system tends to a minimum, and the so-called problem of “three moral bodies” (Jevons) or problem of the “interaction of souls” (Edgeworth), becomes reducible to, via physicochemical terminology neutrality reform, to the problem of the reaction (arrival of life), dereaction (arrival of death), and transformations therein, of choice-operational bodies in systems, if indeed the terms moral and amoral derive, etymologically, from the logic of the arrival of Greco-Roman goddess Vita (life) and Mors (death), respectively.

Principles of Science | Continuity theory
In 1874, Jevons published his The Principles of Science: a Treatise on Logic and the Scientific Method, wherein he gave the following view of phosphorus in relation to the human: [5]

“By degrees it is found that the chemistry of organized substances is not widely separated from, but is rather continuous with, that of earth and stones. Life itself seems to be nothing but a special form of that energy which is manifested in heat and electricity and mechanical force. The time may come, it almost seems, when the tender mechanism of the brain will be traced out, and every thought reduced to the expenditure of a determinate weight of nitrogen and phosphorus.”

This is excellent discernment for 1874, indeed.

“No apparent limit exists to the success of scientific method in weighing and measuring, and reducing beneath the sway of law, the phenomena both of matter and of mind [mind brain duality]. And if mental phenomena be thus capable of treatment by the balance and the micrometer, can we any longer hold that mind is distinct from matter? Must not the same inexorable reign of law, which is apparent in the motions of brute matter, be extended to the most subtle feelings of the human heart? Are not plants and animals and ultimately man himself, merely crystals, as it were, of a complicated form? If so, our boasted free will becomes a delusion, moral responsibility a fiction, spirit a mere name for the more curious manifestations of material energy. All that happens, whether right or wrong, pleasurable or painful, is but the outcome of the necessary relations of time and space and force, and of the laws of matter emerging from them, which are fixed in the very nature of things.

Materialism seems, then, to be the coming religion, and resignation to the nonenity of human will the only duty. Such may not generally be the reflections of men of science, but I believe that we may thus describe the secret feelings of fear which the constant advance of scientific investigation excites in the minds of many who view it from a distance. Is science, then, essentially atheistic and materialistic in its tendency? Does the uniform action of material causes, which we learn with an ever increasing approach to certainty, preclude the hypothesis of an intelligent and benevolent creator, who has not only designed the existing universe, but who still retains the power to alter its course from time to time?”

He concludes this excellent tract, being already well past the 400+ page mark of his treatise, by commenting “to enter actually upon theological discussions would be evidently beyond the scope of this work.”

Theory of Political Economy
In 1871, Jevons published Theory of Political Economy—a fuller elaboration, supposedly, of his earlier paper on "A General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy" (1862), written for the British Association—wherein he attempts the following:

“In this work I have attempted to treat economy as a calculus of pleasure and pain, and have sketched out, almost irrespective of previous opinions, the form which the science, as it seems to me, must ultimately take. The theory of economy thus treated presents a close analogy to the science of statical mechanics, and the laws of exchange are found to resemble the laws of equilibrium of a lever as determined by the principle of virtual velocities. The nature of wealth and value is explained by the consideration of indefinitely small amounts of pleasure and pain, just as the theory of statics is made to rest upon the equality of indefinitely small amounts of energy.”

Some of this so-called felicity calculus logic was extended into Francis Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics (1881), who cites Jevons on his first page. [7]

Coal Question
In 1865, Jevons, in his The Coal Question, starting with James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine, first defines coal as “material energy”, and then goes on to argue that supplies of coal will eventually run out: [1]

"Coal in truth stands not beside but entirely above all other commodities. It is the material energy of the country — the universal aid — the factor in everything we do. With coal almost any feat is possible or easy; without it we are thrown back into the laborious poverty of early times. With such facts familiarly before us, it can be no matter of surprise that year by year we make larger draughts upon a material of such myriad qualities — of such miraculous powers."

Jevons, having had some background in physical science and chemistry, defines coal as stored fire, so to speak:

“Fuel—the source of fire—is the source at once of mechanical action and of chemical change.”

(add discussion)

Education
In 1850, Jevons, at the age of 15, entered University College School, London, focusing on the natural sciences, his favorite subjects being chemistry and botany, and he also studied mathematics under the famous logician Augustus de Morgan. In 1854, owing to financial constraints, Jevons took up an assayership position at the new mint in Sydney, Australia, where he remained for five years. In circa 1859-60, Jevons returned to the University College London, completed his BA and MA, and in 1866 became a professor of logic, mental and moral philosophy, and political economy in Owens college, Manchester.

Logic | Logical machine
In 1860, at the Sydney Mint, Jevons wrote the following in his journal: (Ѻ)

“As I awoke in the morning the sun was shining brightly into my room, there was a consciousness on my mind that I was the discoverer of the true logic of the future I felt a delight such as one can seldom hope to feel. I remembered only too soon though how unworthy and weak an instrument I was for accomplishing so great a work and how hardly I could expect to do it.”

Jevons then read George Boole’s 1854 Mathematical Analysis of Logic and An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, in which he also saw problems. In 1861, Jevons began developing was developing his own system of logic based on what he eventually called the “substitution of similar”, whereby philosophy would be shown to consist solely in pointing out the likeness in things. In 1863, he published Pure Logic, selling a dismal four copies sold in 6 months.
Jevons piano (1869)Jevons logic machine
Jevons keyboard
Jevons’ 1869 logic machine for doing Boolean algebra like truth tables.

In 1869, Jevons published The Substitution of Similars, a logic textbook, wherein he describe a logical abacus, a series of wooden boards with various combinations of true and false terms, that could be arranged on a rack and ruler and used to remove certain excluded combinations. Jevons then had a Salford clock maker construct a working model of the device, shown adjacent, being 2.95 feet in height, called by him a “logical machine”, the bottom row called the “predicated keys”, which computed Boolean-like truth tables.

Other
Jevons, according to physical economics historian Philip Mirowski, during his tenure at Owens College, was in intimate of Scottish physicist Balfour Stewart, an association which supposedly had some type of influence on neoclassical economic theory. [4]

Georgescu-Roegen | Material energy | Material entropy
Jevons’ notion of material energy seems to have been the verbal template for Romanian-born American mathematician Nicholas Georgescu’s 1971 notion of material entropy, as Georgescu, in his The Entropy Law, cites the work of Jevons to a good extent, opening to a discussion of his The Coal Question as the platform to argue that the exhaustion of coal (or rather natural resources in general) is a repercussion of the second law, in that entropy tends to increase; although the way he interprets this is way off. Georgescu pens his model as such (his italics): [2]

“In the beginning, the chemical energy of the coal is free, in the sense that it is available to us for producing some mechanical work. In the process, however, the free energy loses this quality, bit by bit. Ultimately, it always dissipates completely into the whole system where it becomes bound energy, that is, energy which we can no longer use for the same purpose.”

This, however, is mis-interpretation of the chemical thermodynamics terms: free energy (available energy) and bound energy, which have very precise mathematical definitions, as derived from the generic heat engine model applied to chemical reactions, particularly as occur in the battery. What Georgescu does, being generally unacquainted with physics or thermodynamics, is blend the three separate parts of the heat engine: hot body (boiler, which the source of heat tends to be coal or wood), the cold body, and the working body, together into his imagined “ecological-economic system”, with no clear or defined thermodynamic boundary. This would go on to create great confusion in the latter three decades of the 20th century, for followers of Georgescu school, of which there were many.

In the correct light, the free energy, in the economic sense, is a type of chemical energy that occurs (absorbs or releases) in the process of chemical reactions between people (human molecules), i.e. human chemical reactions, whereby the "coal" or rather natural resources is a surface interaction type energy, in the sense that people are molecules reacting on a surface (substrate), catalyzed by the material of the surface (similar that which occurs in the Haber process), in a way that the catalyzing action (or energy affect of the catalyzing action) results to lower (or raise) the activation energy barrier to the progress of human chemical reactions. [3]

In this sense, depletion of coal supplies (if this were humanities sole natural resource) would result to affect a raising of the activation energy barrier to human chemical reaction, in particular the human reproduction reaction, and hence cause a population growth decrease; just as, conversely, the coal-fueled industrial led to the population explosion at the end of the last millennium.

Quotes | On
The following are about quotes:

“The only point about Jevons was that he was a genius.”
— Herbert Foxwell (c.1920) (Ѻ)

“A look at Jevons’ entire lifework bears out Foxwell’s opinion. Jevon’s legacies to economics are indeed fragmentary, but they are the leavings of genius.”
— Robert Eckland (1983) (Ѻ)

Quotes | By
The following are notable quotes:

“There exists much prejudice against attempts to introduce the methods and language of mathematics into any branch of the moral sciences. Most persons appear to hold that the physical sciences form the proper sphere of mathematical method, and that the moral sciences demand some other method, I know not what.”
— Stanley Jevons (1871), Theory of Political Economy (pg. 3)

“We cannot weigh, or gauge, or test the feelings of the mind; there is no unit of labor, or suffering, or enjoyment.”
— Stanley Jevons (1871), Theory of Political Economy (pg. 9)

References
1. Jevons, W. Stanley. (1865). The Coal Question. MacMillan & Co.
2. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (Jevons, pgs. 2, 6, 40, 295, 323, 334, 336). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
3. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
4. Mirowski, Philip. (1989). More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics (pg. 407). Cambridge University Press.
5. (a) Jevons, William Stanley. (1874). The Principles of Science: a Treatise on Logic and the Scientific Method (Book VI, ch. 31: Reflections on the Limits of the Scientific Method, pgs. 427-70; quote, pgs. 427-28). MacMillan.
(b) Mirowski, Philip. (1989). More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics (pg. 219). Cambridge University Press.
6. Jevons, W. Stanley. (1871). Theory of Political Economy (pleasure and pain, pg. vii). MacMillan and Co.
7. Edgeworth, Francis Y. (1881). Mathematical Psychics: an Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences (pg. 1). C. Kegan Paul & Co.
8. (a) Piqou, A.C. (1925). Memorials of Alfred Marshall (pgs. 94-95). Macmillan.
(b) Cohen, I. Bernard. (1994). “Newton and the Social Sciences: with Special Reference to Economics, or, the Case of the Missing Paradigm” (pg. 72-73), in: Natural Images in Economic Thought: Markets Read in Tooth and Claw (editor: Philip Mirowski) (§3). Cambridge University Press.
9. (a) Jevons, William Stanley. (1874). The Principles of Science: a Treatise on Logic and the Scientific Method (pg. 458). MacMillan.
(b) Cohen, I. Bernard. (1994). “Newton and the Social Sciences: with Special Reference to Economics, or, the Case of the Missing Paradigm” (pg. 72-73), in: Natural Images in Economic Thought: Markets Read in Tooth and Claw (editor: Philip Mirowski) (§3). Cambridge University Press.
10. Edgeworth, Francis Y. (1881). Mathematical Psychics: an Essay on the Application of Mathematics to the Moral Sciences (pgs. 10-11). C. Kegan Paul & Co.

Further reading
● Jevons, W. Stanley (1878). “Commercial Crises and Sun-Spots” (abs), Nature, 24:33–37, Nov 14.

External links
William Stanley Jevons – Wikipedia.
The Coal Question – Wikipedia.
William Stanley Jevons – NNDB.

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