Among the distinguished Serbian scientists, Kosta Stojanović is in the present age the least known one. His work – developed in the fields of mechanics, mathematics, physics, sociology and economics – had been disregarded and his ideas remained uncomprehended, although the time and subsequent scientific development has convincingly confirmed them. He was born at Aleksinac on 2nd October 1867, in the same crucial year in which the keys of the Belgrade Fortress were ceremoniously handed over to Prince Mihailo. |
He studied mathematics at the Faculty of Philosophy of the High School of Belgrade and graduated in June 1889 as the best student in his class. From 1893 he continued his studies in Paris where he attended lectures in mathematics, astronomy, mechanics and physics, and in 1897 he went to Leipzig in order to receive doctor's degree in mathematics. After the coup d'etat of 1903 he became a honorary lecturer at the High School and, immediately after its transformation into the University of Belgrade, associate professor of the applied mathematics at the Faculty of Philosophy.
In the period from April 1906 to June 1908, during the direct economic conflict between Kingdom of Serbia and Austro-Hungarian imperialism, he proved himself as a talented statesman also. The intellectual and scientific strength of his successful political strategy, based on cybernetic understanding of social processes and their control was a surprise for AustroHungarian conservative strategists.
He died suddenly on 3rd January 1921, a couple of days after his nomination for the minister of finance in the first Yugoslav government with Nikola Pašić as prime minister.
His intellectual efforts, aimed to find an efficient methodology which could unite the separated approaches to natural and social sciences, are evident already in his scripts written at the end of the 19th century. Milutin Milanković pointed that the ...work of Stojanović, which lays on the ground of exact science enters into the field of descriptive sciences and in this way bridges the gap between them. The life's work of Kosta Stojanović is characterized primarily by his effort to comprehend the wholeness and his intention to amalgamate mathematical, natural and social sciences.
Such a tendency can be accomplished only in mechanics, which is to him an expression of the principle of continuity. Stojanović, in fact, observes the continuum emanating in different phenomena and processes subjected to the laws of basic mechanical structure. His approach diverges from the mechanism of the 18th century, as well as from the subsequent positivism, by his philosophical critical attitude which recognizes the transcendental character of basic scientific concepts. Stojanović is fully aware that the basic mechanical principles, although constant and invariable, somehow reflect the constructions of our logic. As a consequence, his science is naturally seeking for the link between mechanics and general theory of cognition. This link he methodologically finds primarily in the concept of analogy. The methodical justification of analogy he explains by postulating that every process can be observed as a mere product of energy transformations. All the energies and all the phenomena observed cannot be substantially separated from one another but they are merging into a single motion, interpreted diversely depending on our viewpoints and measured by units expressed in unknown elements i.e. time, space and mass. He points that the connections of causes and effects attains different names depending on the place where the processes occur. Consequently, only the analogies existing in various forms of motion can be recognized.
Stojanović is very much interested to substantiate the reciprocity of mathematics and physics, and to point not only that they in fact reciprocally interpret the same phenomena, but also, that the number of their theorems could be halved by reducing them into mechanics. Interpretation of physical phenomena approaches closest to its real task when reduced into seeking of the mechanical causes of the phenomena, whereas, in this sense, the most general problem of physics has to be identified with the most general problem of mechanics.
Mechanics not only affords a support to mathematics and physics, but also solidifies the ground for true and exact instead of descriptive interpretation of social processes. Interpretation of the social phenomena relies on the comprehension of thermodynamic processes, with entropy as the fundamental category. In relation to this concept he validates the sense and significance of any process whatsoever, i.e. the state of any system, whether biological, social, economical, physical or psychological... In this sense, entropy is to him sufficiently defined as a concept with a cognitive potential, applicable in different planes of comprehension. Hence it is a completely correct conclusion that the social theory of Stojanović, is the predecessor of cybernetics. His thought most precisely defines that concept; his animal motors only illusively differ from thermal ones in the same manner as Norbert Wiener, using the same mathematical methods, several decades later, investigated the analogies between living organisms and machines. It should also be kept in mind that his most significant work, Interpretation of Physical and Social Phenomena, devoted to the analysis of these problems, was published in 1910, although his numerous manuscripts provide enough evidence that the results presented in it were obtained already in 1888.
The treatise Foundations of the Theory of Economic Values, his most perfect economic work, was written in the period from 1906 to 1908 and published in 1910. Original and specific in it is the theoretical attempt to find a link between thermodynamic and economic processes, i.e. between physics and economy, as well as the mathematical explanation of the analogy between thermal and economic processes. Establishing such a systematic analogy, Stojanović took priority on the line of development of the economic theory since the middle of the twentieth century. He suggests that the whole thermodynamics, through appropriate interpretation of its equations and results, in its basic statements could be transformed into a mathematical theory of economic phenomena.
Stojanović establishes the mathematical analogy between thermodynamics and economy postulating the isomorphism of six cardinal elements: mechanical work is homologous to economic labour, temperature to demand, pressure to supply, volume to value, heat quantity to capital, and energy to wealth. Mathematical equations can also be established and expressed between all these elements.
Author: Petrović, Aleksandar