Urges, arousal, and Keynes’ “animal spirits”

This is a comment on  The Concept of “Animal Spirits” is a Red Herring, a June 27, 2011 blog post, by the blogger “Lord Keynes”, on exploring what Keynes really meant by people needing the urge to act, as well as a rational expectation…


Thanks for helping clarify the original meaning of “animal spirits” and helping bring out “the real J.M. Keynes”.    I agree:

Keynes uses “animal spirits” in the sense of “a spontaneous [human] urge to action rather than inaction.”

The sense in which his use and Descartes’, as

“the fiery particles of the blood”

are consistent is seen when observing that both would be referring to how people need to be aroused and have inspiration to act, i.e. to make emotional leaps in decision making, and not just form rational expectations.

That is indeed quite different from our having to be subjective in forming expectations with uncertainties.   As you say “The concept of “animal spirits” as used by Keynes is not even necessary to the modern subjective expectations theory. “   But then that is the subject you discuss, and seem to drop the question of what Keynes really thought was important about the need for “animal spirits” to allow people to act.

A related puzzle for understanding “the real J.M. Keynes” is his mysterious Chapter 16 of The General Theory.  It’s his concluding chapter to his grand theory of how to stabilize growth.  He oddly spends the whole chapter on the natural limits of his own model, however.    Continue reading Urges, arousal, and Keynes’ “animal spirits”