Accueil > On the Money: the History and Meaning of Monetized Life


Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


No particular background in philosophy or finance is required.

Course Description

This course is designed to promote critical reflection on the nature and meaning of personal financial viewpoints and public financial phenomena, and how both affect our relations with one another and with the world at large. Our emphasis is on historical overview and abstract speculation on the one hand and the concrete problems of our time on the other. Philosophical issues under consideration include the monetary aspects of the good life, anomalous foundations of global monetary exchange, individual fears and fantasies about money, the rational basis of misdeeds in the financial markets, the economic practice of equating meaning to value and value to monetary structure. The course considers both classic theory and current policy in light of such issues.


OWCARZ, Gregory (Philosophy expert)

Pedagogical format

Course participation constitutes nearly a third of the final course grade, determined by class discussion efforts and demonstrated reading comprehension. Some lectures will be given where necessary to introduce new material or to clarify difficult concepts, but critical discussion is crucial in examining the relevant theories, practices, debates in light of one's own preparations and understanding.

Course validation

Students must complete a critical analysis essay related to the lectures given and the readings assigned, which constitutes 20% of course grade. Suggested topics must be approved by the third class meeting and papers must be completed by the eighth class meeting. Students must participate in an assigned group presentation project, likewise on an approved topic, which constitutes another 20% of the course grade. Active class participation will be noted and quizzes to evaluate reading comprehension will be given on occasion if warranted, constituting 30% of the course grade. A comprehensive final exam held during the last class meeting will constitute the remaining 30% of the overall course grade. Late work will not be accepted, nor will make-up work be offered.


Each week students are required to study a selection of assigned texts and other related materials (e.g. stock market activity, personal finance behaviors) which constitutes the basis for class lecture, discussion and debate.

Required reading

  • Money, Money, Money - Michael Toms and Jacob Needleman (eds.)
  • The Ascent of Money - Niall Ferguson
  • Money and the Meaning of Life - Jacob Needleman
  • Key excerpts from required texts supplied by the instructor

Additional required reading

  • The Philosophy of Money - G. Simmel, Money and the Modern Mind by G. Poggi
  • What Is the Meaning of Money? - R. Droit (ed.), The Social Meaning of Money - V. Zelizer
  • The Morality of Money: - A. Walsh, The Gift - M. Mauss, Capital in the 21st Century - T. Piketty
  • Debt: The First 5000 Years - D. Graeber, Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property - L. Hyde
  • Primitive Money - P. Einzig, Your Money or Your Life - Joe Dominguez