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This paper discusses Richard Arena’s insightful and original contributions to interpreting the important interaction between Piero Sraffa and Ludwig Wittgenstein. It discusses this in terms of dilemmas they each encountered in transitions in their thinking in the 1930s, emphasizes the influence of Sraffa’s unpublished “Surplus Product” text, compares Sraffa’s critique of “natural science point of view” and Wittgenstein’s critique of logical form, and compares Sraffa’s later understanding of the relationship between production and distribution and Wittgenstein’s later understanding of forms of life and language-games. The paper argues this thinking opened up a approach to economic philosophy in connection with the distinction between open and closed systems. Arena has been a leading proponent open systems thinking in economics. He thus reminds us, in Wittgenstein’s words – ‘Don’t think, but look!’ – or look beyond what one might think ones sees in a closed systems way.

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