I came across this phrase whilst reading Crotchet Castle, by Thomas Love Peacock. It says:

The moment you admit that [...], [then] the whole of that curious fabric of postulates and dogmas, which you call the science of political economy, and which I call politicæ oeconomiæ inscientia, tumbles to pieces.

The translation of the first two words is I think simple: political economy. But I am struggling with inscientia. I think it's being used as an adjective, probably as ignorant. But the phrase sound slightly odd to me:

... and which I call the ignorant political economy, tumbles to pieces.

I mean, a science (or pseudo-science, or scientific discipline) is not ignorant. An individual can be. Am I understanding this correctly?

PS: I'm also quite shocked that economics is oeconomia rather than economia.


1 Answer 1


"The un-science of political economy"

Scientia fundamentally means knowledge, as in Bacon's famous motto, nam ipsa scientia potestās est "for knowledge itself is power". But it's also the origin of the modern word "science", and I think that's the sense that's intended here.

So while īnscientia literally means "ignorance" or "inexperience", I think it's meant here to contrast with "the science of political economy". I would calque it as "un-science".

For a more natural English translation, which doesn't preserve the pun, you could say the ignorance of political economy.

P.S. Oeconomia is a loan from Greek, οἶκος "home" + νόμος "law". The sequences oe and ae in Latin and Greek-via-Latin words tend to become plain e in English.

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