This article seeks a definition of money by bringing the approaches of Spengler, Plato, Aristotle, and Keynes into dialogue. All four promote alternative views of the ontology of money as anchored either in supra-individual thought or in actual behavior, scrutinizing its relationship with mathematics. This discussion leads to an understanding of money as originating in human action and as a numerical tool that can only be understood from its ends in use. The essence of money is therefore ethical. The article concludes with a novel combination of Aristotle’s and Keynes’s ideas: the crucial element of money is learning good money practices in order to form society. This can be achieved by harmonizing money’s material part as mere actuality with money’s mathematical part as potentiality.
Emanuel Seitz has studied archaeology, ancient history, and Indo-European linguistics and is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. His research investigates cunning and prudence as a reflection on the difference between form and matter. With Hans Peter Hahn and Mario Schmidt, he has edited Mauss’s treatises on money, published as Schriften zum Geld (2015). He has also translated The Clouds by Aristophanes into modern German and is working on a theory of jokes and comedy.