Gold and Philosophy


Courtesy of David van der Linden @ New

A recent article one came across presented an interesting analogy. It was stated that “unconscious thought is like fluid gold, streaming down the side of a mountain towards a deep chasm”[1]. Placing moulds along the mountain saves the gold from flowing into the chasm, just as increasing one’s vocabulary allows one to capture thought and express ideas. The conclusion of the analogist was that the study of philosophy is of value, since one learns to explicate unconscious thoughts, just as capturing gold on the side of the mountain allows one to capture value.

The analogy as it stands is of limited use. Rather than to view gold merely as an object of value, one might learn more by heeding the unparalleled marketability of coined gold. To state that simply capturing gold is a useful endeavour seems to be an objectification. Gold is not valuable in and of itself, rather it is valued by individuals. Capturing gold in moulds does not directly imply one is capturing value, unless one first assumes gold is a valuable substance in and of itself. The minting of gold into coin on the other hand, is useful since one increases the marketability of the substance. To return to the analogy, one can say that broadening one’s vocabulary -the goal of which is to be able to explicate thought- may increase the marketability (or exchangeability) of one’s ideas. Thoughts and ideas are not valuable of themselves, yet it is useful to increase the exchangeability of the same so as to be able to debate, discuss and develop them.

Is this all that can be said about the exchangeability of ideas? Looking once again to the nature of the marketability of coined gold, one can learn more. It has been made clear that half-unit gold coins may be more marketable than unit gold coins. There is a difference in “what one is willing to do with two half-unit gold coins and not willing to do with a unit gold coin”[2]. Perhaps one could conclude that expressing ideas with brevity may improve the exchangeability of these ideas, just as a change in the spatial scale of a gold coin may change the marketability thereof.

It becomes clear that a masterful grip of language(s), as well as linguistic tools such as various forms of imagery, can prove extremely effective in improving the exchangeability of one’s thoughts and ideas. In that light, it is a great testament to the intellect of Carl Menger, who had to coin the term “absatzfähigkeit” -meaning “marketability”- in order to express his advanced thoughts on the origins of money. An understanding of marketability makes the original aforementioned analogy more accurate.

David van der Linden
28th April 2015


[1]: B. Berg, Filosofisch Goud, (Dutch language only)

[2]: S. Jaitly, One Plus One Equals Two?,

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