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Les mathématiques du plaisir et de la peine: la théorie du choix individuel de Hermann Heinrich Gossen


  • Paola Tubaro

    () (CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University of Greenwich Business School - University of Greenwich)


In early nineteenth-century Germany, the use of mathematics in economics flourished more than in other European countries, and got ahead of mainstream "literary" economics in many respects. This article gives the flavour of this relatively little known tradition, with focus on the case of Hermann Heinrich Gossen. It examines the influence of mathematical concepts and tools on the theory of individual economic behaviour of this writer, and brings to light the essential role that mathematics played as source of inspiration. Counter to earlier views insisting on the role of elementary geometry as a tool for analytical discovery in Gossen, this essay highlights the importance of advanced mathematics in forming his main concepts. In particular, the mathematical notion of function together with optimisation calculation methods enabled Gossen to provide a formal definition of utility / pleasure and to conceptualise utility maximisation as the founding principle of the economic behaviour of individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Tubaro, 2009. "Les mathématiques du plaisir et de la peine: la théorie du choix individuel de Hermann Heinrich Gossen," Post-Print hal-01405312, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01405312
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