The Paradox of Value and Ultimate Comparisons of Worth

By:
Dr. Adrian J. Walsh
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In Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" draws attention to the fact that while water which is extremely useful costs very little, a diamond which he takes to be useless is very expensive. Many economists claim that this Paradox of Value is a pseudo-problem since price is set by supply and demand rather than the intrinsic worth of the commodity good. I argue that this is correct if we understand the paradox in causal terms. However, it is not at all clear that Smith thought that there was some causal relationship between ultimate value and price. Moreovower, Smith's paradox directs our attention to an important form of practical reasoning that concerns the relationship between prices and the intrinsic vlaue of a thing. This reasoning is central to our daily economic practice and any theory which would deny it as a normative practice does so at its own peril.


Keywords: Value Theory, History of Economics
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Colloquium in English
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Dr. Adrian J. Walsh

Senior Lecturer, Philosophy Discipline, School of Social Science, University of new England
Armidale, NSW, Australia

Adrian Walsh is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of New England. He works mainly in political philosophy and the philosophy of economics. His most recent book is "Ethics, Money and Sport" (Routledge, 2006) which explores various moral and political issues arising out of the commodification of sport. He has published on amongst other things just war theory, the use of thought experiments in ethics, medical ethics, value theory in ecnomics and the commodification of natural resources in international scholarly journals such as "Philosophy", "Politics, Philosophy and Economics", "The Australasian Journal of Philosophy" and "The Journal of Political Philosophy". He is currently working on as project on money and moral philosophy. This project explores moral issues concerning pricing, money lending and value theory.

Ref: I07P0380