Antoine Augustin Cournot

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Antoine Augustin Cournot

Antoine Augustin Cournot (28 August 1801 – 31 March 1877) was a French philosopher, mathematician and economist.


Researches into the Mathematical Principles of the Theory of Wealth, 1897[edit]

Antoine Augustin Cournot. Researches into the Mathematical Principles of the Theory of Wealth, 1897, English transl. by Nathaniel T. Bacon.

  • Those skilled in mathematical analysis know that its object is not simply to calculate numbers, but that it is also employed to find the relations between magnitudes which cannot be expressed in numbers and between functions whose law is not capable of algebraic expression.
  • The employment of mathematical symbols is perfectly natural when the relations between magnitudes are under discussion; and even if they are not rigorously necessary, it would hardly be reasonable to reject them, because they are not equally familiar to all readers and because they have sometimes been wrongly used, if they are able to facilitate the exposition of problems, to render it more concise, to open the way to more extended developments, and to avoid the digressions of vague argumentation.
    • pp. 3-4; Cited in: Moritz (1914, 199)
  • Anyone who understands algebraic notation, reads at a glance in an equation results reached arithmetically only with great labour and pains.
    • p. 4; Cited in: Moritz (1914, 197): About mathematics as language
  • In the act of exchange, as in the transmission of power by machinery, there is friction to be overcome, losses which must be borne, and limits which cannot be exceeded.
    • p. 9
  • So far we have studies how, for each commodity by itself, the law of demand in connection with the conditions of production of that commodity, determines the price of it and regulates the incomes of its producers. We considered as given and invariable the prices of other commodities and the incomes of other producers; but, in reality the economic system is a whole of which the parts are connected and react on each other. An increase in the incomes of the producers of commodity A will affect the demand for commodities Band C, etc., and the incomes of their producers, and, by its reaction will involve a change in the demand for A. It seems, therefore, as if, for a complete and rigorous solution of the problems relative to some parts of the economic system, it were indispensable to take the entire system into consideration. But this would surpass the powers of mathematical analysis and of our practical methods of calculation, even if the values of all the constants could be assigned to them numerically.
    • p. 137

Quotes about Antoine Augustin Cournot[edit]

  • It took from a hundred to a hundred and fifty or two hundred years for the astronomy of Kepler to become the astronomy of Newton and Laplace, and for the mechanics of Galileo to become the mechanics of d'Alembert and Lagrange. On the other hand, less than a century has elapsed between the publication of Adam Smith’s work and the contributions of Cournot, Gossen, Jevons, and myself.
    • Léon Walras cited in : John Cunningham Wood (1993), Léon Walras: The life of Léon Walras and perspectives on his thought. Taylor & Francis, p. 32-33
  • Faith makes us live by showing us that life, although it is dependent upon reason, has its well spring and source of power elsewhere, in something supernatural and miraculous. Cournot the mathematician, a man of singularly well-balanced and scientifically equipped mind has said that it is this tendency towards the supernatural and miraculous that gives life, and that when it is lacking, all the speculations of reason lead to nothing but affliction of the spirit. ...And in truth we wish to live.
  • In 1823 he took a license degree in mathematics at Sorbonne University. He then became the private secretary of a field marshal who required assistance in writing his memoirs. This position must have left Cournot with considerable time for his own pursuits, for in the course of his ten years in the field marshal's employment he took two doctoral degrees, one in mechanics and one in astronomy. In addition, he published a number of articles and even acquired a degree in law.
    • Sandmo, Agnar (2011). Economics evolving. Princeton: Princeton university press. p. 146. ISBN 9780691148427. 

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