I'm a college student of physics, and I'm looking to expand my horizon in the field of philosophy of economics, so, what books would you recommend for newbies like me?

I was thinking in history of economics but related to philosophy and also include current works.

  • 1
    Studying "philosophy of economics" without first mastering some economics is very likely to lead you into all sorts of silliness. (Replace "economics" with "physics" or "mathematics" and the same holds true.)
    – WillO
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 22:30
  • +WillO you're absolutely correct, I'm actually fighting my way through some college books of basic economics, although they've something like 1000 pages!
    – Albert o
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 22:50

6 Answers 6


You might look at philosopher Margaret Schabas's 2006 book The Natural Origins of Economics, about the emergence of the very idea of “economy.” Schabas is a historically-oriented philosopher who writes clearly for a broad audience.

For an overview of the range of issues about economics discussed by philosophers, and references to their publications, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an article on Philosophy of Economics. The SEP is currently perhaps the best free, open, net-accessible, high-quality starting point for learning about nearly any area of philosophy.


As a possible counterpart to Schabas book, is the text by the British anthropologist Graeber which examines Economics from the anthropological view: Debt, the first five thousand years - it starts from the first records of debt in Sumer to the present-day and looks how it interweaves with the texture of every-day institutions such as friendship, ritual, family as well as trade and government.

Another possibility is Free trade reimagined by the philosopher and politician Roberto Unger where he deconstructs the contemporary situation in economics and it's entanglements with law and politics.


Given the position you are starting from, I think the best thing to read would be an engaging but broad overview of economic thought. That way you can better decide what interests you to read next. And it wouldn't hurt to read a tried-and-true classic.

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner would seem to fit the bill well. (I hasten to add thought that I haven't actually had the chance to read it personally!) It was written in the early 1950s, but has a "modern" focus, starting from Adam Smith and continuing up to Joeseph Schumpeter.

If you look at this book on Amazon it will link you to a number of other books on very similar lines. Especially if you want something more up-to-date (not to suggest that Heilbroner's is in any way outdated), it would be well worth browsing through those.

  • Heilbroner book look promising indeed
    – Albert o
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 14:21
  • (cough)
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 1:09

A huge argument between Austrian School and Keynesian economics has been taking place and got very heated since the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent TARP actions.

I recommend that you start by reviewing fractional reserve banking and being able to understand the meaning of bank "notes".

  • Yes, that discussion seems to be endless
    – Albert o
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 19:25

Two books of Adam Smith:

  1. The Wealth of nations (1776) -- it gives the basis of liberalism and modern economic policies;
  2. The theory of moral sentiments (1759) - Smith shows moral virtues as rules for human beings.

Philip Mirowski - "Machine Dreams - Economics Becomes A Cyborg Science" http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=7585a4e9d7fea7793c387059bd862561 might be interesting. Gives an account of 20th century economics related to cold war history/tech, computers and game theory.

  • Welcome to Philosophy SE. This is very close to a "link only answer", and other high rep users might close/down-vote it for that reason. I believe that it could be improved by adding some additional details on the thesis in this book and/or the relationship of this work to other schools of economic philosophy.
    – Dave
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 14:40

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