The Market for Philosophers: An Interpretation of Lucian's Satire on Philosophy

The Independent Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall 2004

Posted: 27 Apr 2004


Richard Posner's recent book, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, is not the first attempt to economically analyze the intellectual marketplace. Eighteen hundred years ago, Lucian applied the same framework to the market for philosophers in the Roman Empire. Though widely seen as a satirist of limited philosophical acumen, Lucian's writings contain enough substance, at least when supplemented with the insights of contemporary economists, to generate an economic theory of philosophy. While much research is still necessary to fully test the theory, it holds promise in explaining key features of philosophic activity. Factors affecting demand and supply are identified in the theory. Also underlined is the risky character of philosophy in forcing consumers to choose among the available schools of thought by using quality indicators, such as the character, education, and commitment of philosophy suppliers. Reflecting a behavioral model, Lucian concludes that consumers take inordinate risks and that the philosophy market fails to produce truth. However, the philosophy market succeeds by generating a variety of "world-views" reflecting people's distinctive preferences.

Keywords: Lucian, Posner, philosophy

JEL Classification: A12, Z1

Suggested Citation

Bragues, George, The Market for Philosophers: An Interpretation of Lucian's Satire on Philosophy. The Independent Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall 2004, Available at SSRN:

George Bragues (Contact Author)

University of Guelph-Humber ( email )

207 Humber College Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario M9W 5L7
416-798-1331, Ext. 6049 (Phone)
416-798-3293 (Fax)

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