|Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord|
Diplomat. Fan of cravats.
For a modern (if less grandiose) parallel, we have this curious insistence by many Austrians that mainstream economists cling to a flawed concept of cardinal — rather than ordinal — utility.[*] To this, the mainstream economists respond: "Huh?"
UPDATE: More of the same here.
UPDATE 2: Daniel Kuehn gives us the in-depth treatment here.
[*] No doubt the eyes of my non-economist readers have already glazed over, but the difference between the two concepts is explained here. In brief, cardinal utility refers to a utility level that can be precisely measured and compared in common units. While useful for teaching purposes, needless to say this is pretty unrealistic; let alone measurable. (E.g. An ice-creams is 1.5 times as good as a chocolate bar, and 2.5 times better than a hamburger.) Ordinal utility, on the other hand, simply allows you to rank the utility that you get from these different goods. (My favourite foods in order of preference are: 1) ice-cream, 2) chocolate and 3) hamburgers.)