Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School, read thoroughly Aristotle. The influence of the Ancient philosopher upon his own theories of a subjective value and the role of subjectivism has been recognized by commentators, from Oscar Kraus to Barry Smith. Nevertheless, its philological proof has not yet been given. This is what we intend to do in this article by establishing the first accurate correspondence between the manuscript annotations left by Menger in his copy of the Nicomachean Ethics and his own copy of his Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre (1871). For this purpose, we explored the major Menger Archives kept in Japan since 1922 and little examined ever by researchers. Menger upheld the theory of essence and also the scale of goods – “to survive – to live / to live for the good” – common to Ancient Greek thought, yet particularly well illustrated in Aristotle’s works. Menger used these schemes as a means to elaborate his own subjective theory of value that revolutionized late XIXth century economics. This article also outlines why this reading of Menger’s “work in progress” is relevant to a necessary comparison of the two editions of the Grundsätze (1871 and 1923, posthumous and edited by his son).
In the Aristotelian tradition, justice in exchange or just price is established by owners of goods through a discussion and a logic of analogy. For them justice is not defined by equality but constitutes a qualitative relationship, obtained by comparison with an quantitative equality.