Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/32

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
18
THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

CHAPTER II


OF CHANGES IN VALUE, ABSOLUTE AND RELATIVE


7. Whenever there is occasion to go back to the fundamental conceptions on which any science rests, and to formulate them with accuracy, we almost always encounter difficulties, which come, sometimes from the very nature of these conceptions, but more often from the imperfections of language. For instance, in the writings of economists, the definition of value, and the distinction between absolute and relative value, are rather obscure: a very simple and strikingly exact comparison will serve to throw light on this.

We conceive that a body moves when its situation changes with reference to other bodies which we look upon as fixed. If we observe a system of material points at two different times, and find that the respective situations of these points are not the same at both times, we necessarily conclude that some, if not all, of these points have moved; but if besides this we are unable to refer them to points of the fixity of which we can be sure, it is, in the first instance, impossible to draw any conclusions as to the motion or rest of each of the points in the system.

However, if all of the points in the system, except one, had preserved their relative situation, we should consider it very probable that this single point was the only one which