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Philosophy of Economics

Edited by Anna Alexandrova (Cambridge University)
Assistant editor: Jack Wright (Cambridge University)
About this topic
Summary Philosophy of economics is a study of any philosophical issue that arises in connection with the discipline of economics. Currently it has three core areas: foundations, methodology and ethics. Foundations of economics encompass conceptual and metaphysical questions such as the nature of rationality and social ontology, seeking to clarify what we study when we study economics (preferences, individuals, institutions, societies etc?) and their properties and relations to each other. Methodology of economics, following on the traditional questions in philosophy of science, is concerned with the nature of knowledge that can be attained about the economy and its sources.  The ethical side of philosophy of economics is a study of normative issues such as justice, efficiency, equality, welfare, paternalism, coercion and such, that arise at the intersection of political philosophy and welfare economics.
Key works Daniel Hausman is responsible for kickstarting much of contemporary philosophy of economics. Hausman 2008 is a comprehensive encyclopedia article. Hausman 2008 is an anthology of classic essays from to J.S Mill and Marx to the present day. Hausman 2006 is a seminal study of normative assumptions in economics and their critical study. Hausman 1992 started and still informs many discussions in methodology of economics. Reiss 2009 presents an updated agenda. Mäki 2001 is a collection on the ontology of economics.
Introductions There is now a textbook in philosophy of economics: Reiss 2013. Other good introductions to philosophy of economics are just introductions to philosophy of social science: for example, Rosenberg 1995, Risjord 2014, and Elster 2007.
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Philosophy of Economics
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  1. Jack Amariglio, Stephen Resnick & Richard Wolff (1990). Division and Difference in the "Discipline" of Economics. Critical Inquiry 17 (1):108.
    The existence and unity of a discipline called economics reside in the eye and mind of the beholder. The perception of economics's unity and disciplinarity itself arises in some, but not all, of the different schools of thought that we would loosely categorize as economic. Indeed, as we hope to show, the presumption of unity and disciplinarity—the idea that there is a center or “core” of propositions, procedures, and conclusions or a shared historical “object” of theory and practice—is suggested in (...)
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  2. R. J. Antonio (1978). An Economic Theory of the Feudal System: Towards a Model of the Polish Economy 1500-1800. Telos 1978 (37):235-241.
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  3. Roger Backhouse (2009). Review of An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 25 (1):99-106.
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  4. Harold W. Baillie (1999). Redman, Deborah A. The Rise of Political Economy as a Science: Methodology and the Classical Economists. Review of Metaphysics 53 (1):195-196.
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  5. Pierluigi Barrotta (2009). The Pursuit of Unhappiness. The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being , Daniel M. Haybron. Oxford University Press, 2008, XV + 357 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 25 (3):378-384.
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  6. Alessandra Basso & Caterina Marchionni (2015). I modelli in economia. Aphex 11.
    The paper reviews the philosophical literature on the epistemology of modelling in contemporary economics. In particular, it focuses on open questions concerning the epistemic role of models, the validity of inferences from the models to the world, and the legitimacy of their use for purposes of explanation, prediction and intervention.
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  7. Yota Batsaki (2009). A Heap of Worthless Fragments : The Nineteenth-Century Literary Revaluation of the Classical Statue. In Jack Amariglio, Joseph W. Childers & Stephen Cullenberg (eds.), Sublime Economy: On the Intersection of Art and Economics. Routledge.
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  8. Eddie K. Baumann (1998). A Comparison of Economic Problem Solving in Experts and Naïve Thinkers. Journal of Social Studies Research 56 (2).
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  9. Ken Binmore (2009). Review Symposium. Journal of Economic Methodology 16 (2):207-219.
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  10. Ken Binmore (2005). What Price the Moral High Ground? Ethical Dilemmas in Competitive Environments, by Robert H. Frank. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004, XII + 203 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 21 (2):309-311.
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  11. Ken Binmore (1991). Russell Hardin's "Morality Within the Limits of Reason". [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 7:112.
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  12. Ken Binmore (1991). Morality Within the Limits of Reason., Russell Hardin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, Xx + 219 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 7 (01):112-119.
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  13. Jack Birner (1994). Stabilizing Dynamics; Constructing Economic Knowledge, E. Roy Weintraub. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, X + 177 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 10 (02):349-.
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  14. L. A. Boland (1989). Book Reviews : Philosophy of Economics: A Critique of Demarcation. By Raphael Sassower. Lanham: University Press of America, 1985. Pp. Xx + 217. $11.75 (Paper. [REVIEW] Philosophy of the Social Sciences 19 (2):231-232.
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  15. L. A. Boland (1985). Book Reviews : Philosophy in Economics. Edited by JOSEPH C. PITT. Dordrecht, Boston and London: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1981, Pp. 203 + Index. $14.95 (Paper. [REVIEW] Philosophy of the Social Sciences 15 (1):108-109.
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  16. L. A. Boland (1976). Book Reviews : An Economic Querist. By G. L. S. SHACKLE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Pp. 135. [REVIEW] Philosophy of the Social Sciences 6 (1):93-94.
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  17. Lawrence A. Boland (1983). On the Best Strategy for Doing Philosophy of Economics. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 34 (4):387-392.
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  18. Ivan Boldyrev & Alexey Ushakov (forthcoming). Adjusting the Model to Adjust the World: Constructive Mechanisms in Postwar General Equilibrium Theory. Journal of Economic Methodology:1-19.
    Economic methodologists most often study the relations between models and reality while focusing on the issues of the model's epistemic relevance in terms of its relation to the ‘real world’ and representing the real world in a model. We complement the discussion by bringing the model's constructive mechanisms or self-implementing technologies in play. By this, we mean the elements of the economic model that are aimed at ‘implementing’ it by envisaging the ways to change the reality in order to bring (...)
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  19. Giacomo Bonanno (1994). Reply to Vilks. Economics and Philosophy 10 (01):115-.
    In his note Arnis Vilks (1994) raises two criticisms concerning my paper "The Logic of Rational Play in Extensive Games" (Bonanno, 1991). The author gives two examples: one to show that my logic "is inconsistent..
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  20. Luigi Bonatti (1984). Uncertainty: Studies in Philosophy, Economics, and Socio-Political Theory. B.R. Grüner.
    lNTRODUCTlON ln itself the world is neither governed by a principle of order, irremediably abandoned to disorder, structured with iron determinism, ...
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  21. William James Booth (1993). Households: On the Moral Architecture of the Economy. Cornell University Press.
    INTRODUCTION A story has been passed down to us from some two millennia ago of a conversation between a wealthy Athenian estate owner, ...
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  22. Kenneth E. Boulding (1989). The Economy of the Earth: Philosophy, Law, and the Environment, Mark Sagoff. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, X + 271 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 5 (01):97-.
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  23. Bryan L. Boulier & Robert S. Goldfarb (1991). Pisces Economicus: The Fish as Economic Man. Economics and Philosophy 7 (01):83-86.
    Since a paradigmatic approach is judged in part by the range of phenomena it can explain, neoclassical microeconomists have no doubt gained assurance about the power of their paradigm by the invasion of economics into a number of related fields, what Hirschleifer has referred to as the “expanding domain of economics.” Moreover, even beyond these excursions into the provinces of other social sciences concerned with human behavior, economics has also recently expanded into the analysis of animal behavior . This development (...)
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  24. Luc Bovens (1994). Essays on Philosophy and Economic Methodology. Review of Metaphysics 47 (4):818-820.
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  25. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis (1993). A Political and Economic Case for the Democratic Enterprise. Economics and Philosophy 9 (01):75-.
    We consider two reasons why firms should be owned and run democratically by their workers. The first concerns accountability : Because the employment relationship involves the exercise of power, its governance should on democratic grounds be accountable to those most directly affected. The second concerns efficiency : The democratic firm uses a lower level of inputs per unit of output than the analogous capitalist firm.
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  26. Michael Bradie (2000). Individualism and the Unity of Science, Harold Kincaid. Rowman & Littlefield, 1997, VII + 165 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 16 (1):147-174.
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  27. Richard Bradley (2000). Models and Reality in Economics, Steven Rappaport. Edward Elgar, 1998, VI + 233 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 16 (1):147-174.
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  28. Theodore A. Burczak (1994). Reply to Bruce Caldwell: Can Subjectivism Be Non-Hermeneutic? Economics and Philosophy 10 (02):315-.
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  29. Theodore A. Burczak (1994). The Postmodern Moments of F. A. Hayek'S Economics. Economics and Philosophy 10 (01):31-.
    Postmodernism is often characterized, among other things, as the belief in the unattainability of objective truth and as a rejection of teleological and reductionist, or essentialist, forms of thought. For instance, in his provocative book The Rhetoric of Economics , Donald McCloskey sketches the implications for economic methodology of Richard Rorty's rejection of the modernist quest for Truth, as represented by various rationalist and empiricist epistemologies. McCloskey describes modernist methodology as displaying a desire to predict and control, a search for (...)
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  30. Kevin Christ (2012). Organisational Economics and the Evolution of a New Management Science. Philosophy of Management 11 (1):79-94.
    This paper reviews the origins of organisational economics and critically examines its influence on business-school scholarship and pedagogy in the eighties and nineties and argues three points. First, it is useful to analyse the infiltration of economic ideas about internal organisation of firms into organisational science within the context of the methodology of scientific research programmes. Second, the adoption by management theorists of organisational economics as part of a new science of organisations represented a significant change in research style within (...)
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  31. John Coates (2003). The Orders of Discourse: Philosophy, Social Science, and Politics, John Gunnell. Rowman and Littlefield, 1998, XV+252 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 19 (2):377-383.
    The Orders of Discourse: Philosophy, Social Science, and Politics, JOHN GUNNELLHow Economics Forgot History: The Problem of Historical Specificity in Social Science, GEOFFREY HODGSON.
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  32. A. J. Cohen (1990). Book Reviews : Neil de Marchi, Ed., The Popperian Legacy in Economics: Papers Presented at a Symposium in Amsterdam, December 1985. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988. Pp. Xii, 280, $37.50 (Cloth. [REVIEW] Philosophy of the Social Sciences 20 (4):527-531.
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  33. Avi J. Cohen (1992). Seeing the Light Despite the Heat Post-Mirowski History of Economic Thought. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 22 (1):83-96.
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  34. David Collard (2008). Review of Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 24 (2):265-271.
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  35. David Collard (2008). Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity. Volume 1, Foundations: Volume 2, Applications, Handbooks in Economics, Serge-Christophe Kolm and Jean Mercier Ythier (Eds). North Holland, 2006, Xxv, Xxii + 1588 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 24 (02):265-271.
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  36. Robert D. Cooter (1989). Rawls's Lexical Orderings Are Good Economics. Economics and Philosophy 5 (01):47-.
    Basic liberty, according to Rawls's first principle of justice, is not to be sacrificed for other values such as wealth. And, according to his second principle of justice, the material well-being of the worst-off members of society is not to be sacrificed to benefit better-off members of society. These trade-offs would be unjust, according to Rawls, no matter how small the sacrifice or how large the offsetting benefit. A decision-maker conforming to Rawls's theory, who is unwilling to sacrifice some values (...)
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  37. Allin Cottrell (1993). Keynes's Theory of Probability and Its Relevance to His Economics: Three Theses. Economics and Philosophy 9 (01):25-.
    One calls a lot of things propositions. If one sees this, then one can discard the idea Russell and Frege had that logic is a science of certain objects – propositions, functions, the logical constants – and that logic is like a natural science such as zoology and talks about these objects as zoology talks of animals. Like a natural science, it could supposedly discover certain relations. For example, Keynes claimed to discover a probability relation which was like implication, yet (...)
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  38. Tyler Cowen (2002). Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World. Robert Nozick, the Belknap Press, 2001, 416 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 18 (2):351-385.
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  39. Tyler Cowen (1993). The Scope and Limits of Preference Sovereignty. Economics and Philosophy 9 (02):253-.
    Economists use tastes as a source of information about personal welfare and judge the effects of policies upon preference satisfaction; neoclassical welfare economics is the analytical embodiment of this preference sovereignty norm. For an initial distribution of wealth, the welfare-maximizing outcome is the one that exhausts all possible gains from trade. Gains from trade are defined relative to fixed ordinal preferences. This analytical apparatus consists of both the Pareto principle, which implies that externality-free voluntary trades increase welfare, and applied costbenefit (...)
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  40. Tyler Cowen (1992). Law as a Public Good: The Economics of Anarchy. Economics and Philosophy 8 (02):249-267.
    Various writers in the Western liberal and libertarian tradition have challenged the argument that enforcement of law and protection of property rights are public goods that must be provided by governments. Many of these writers argue explicitly for the provision of law enforcement services through private market relations.
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  41. Rod Cross (1993). On the Foundations of Hysteresis in Economic Systems. Economics and Philosophy 9 (01):53-.
    Hysteresis means literally “that which comes later,” being derived from the Greek verb ύστερέω. Thus, hysteresis effects, generally defined, are those that persist after the initial causes giving rise to the effects are removed. During the course of the 1980s, it became increasingly fashionable to invoke hysteresis effects to explain economic phenomena. Two of the main areas of application were to unemployment and international trade. In the case of unemployment, distinctive features of labor markets, such as social norms that rule (...)
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  42. Charles Cunneen (ed.) (1978). Explorations in Philosophy and Society. Grüner.
    PREFACE Charles Cunneen One of the most common cliches used by anti-socialists is that "socialism is great in theory, but no one has any freedom. ...
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  43. John Davis (1994). Maynard Keynes: An Economist's Biography, D. E. Moggridge. London and New York: Routledge, 1992, Xxxi + 941 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 10 (02):359-.
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  44. John B. Davis (1990). Cooter and Rappoport on the Normative. Economics and Philosophy 6 (01):139-.
    In a recent examination of the origins of ordinal utility theory in neoclassical economics, Robert D. Cooter and Peter Rappoport argue that the ordinalist revolution of the 1930s, after which most economists abandoned interpersonal utility comparisons as normative and unscientific, constituted neither unambiguous progress in economic science nor the abandonment of normative theorizing, as many economists and historians of economic thought have generally believed . Rather, the widespread acceptance of ordinalism, with its focus on Pareto optimality, simply represented the emergence (...)
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  45. Adolfo García de La Sienra (1989). The Reconstruction of Economic Theory, Philip Mirowski (Editor). Boston/Dordrecht/Lancaster: Kluwer-Nijhoff Publishing, 1986, X + 266 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 5 (02):255-.
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  46. Neil de Marchi (1986). Mill's Unrevised Philosophy of Economics: A Comment on Hausman. Philosophy of Science 53 (1):89-100.
    Hausman has argued that Mill in the Logic demands verification of qualified, inexact statements if they are to be considered lawlike. This puts Mill in line with a reasonable interpretation of what modern microeconomists are about, but requires the additional hypothesis that Mill abandoned his earlier stress on modal truth in his 1836 essay on the method of economics. The paper maintains that neither textual nor contextual evidence supports this hypothesis. Moreover, it is superfluous if one attends carefully to how (...)
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  47. Martin de Vlieghere (1994). A Reappraisal of Friedrich A. Hayek's Cultural Evolutionism. Economics and Philosophy 10 (02):285-.
    In spite of the important discoveries made by Adam Smith and later by the economists of the Austrian School, Friedrich Hayek remained intellectually challenged by the miracle of the price mechanism. As it turned out there was still some pioneering to do in describing the price mechanism. This became clear when Hayek identified the dispersal of information relevant to exchange transactions as the central issue of economic study. In the context of his distinction between competition as a state of things (...)
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  48. Michel de Vroey (1990). The Base Camp Paradox: A Reflection on the Place of Tâtonnement in General Equilibrium Theory. Economics and Philosophy 6 (02):235-.
    A basic issue in political economy is the question of how a decentralized economy is possible: How can a system survive and, moreover, be efficient, if all decisions are taken independently, that is, without any explicit coordination? The issue has two sides to it. On the one hand, it is a “thought experiment,” falsifiable only on logical grounds, an object of debate for the sake of pure intellectual interest, even for people who might not live in a market economy. On (...)
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  49. James Devine & Gary Dymski (1992). Walrasian Marxism Once Again. Economics and Philosophy 8 (01):157-.
    John Roemer's comment succinctly summarizes the logical structure of his own theory of capitalist exploitation, but misunderstands the main points of our critique. He reduces his argument to two propositions. The first is an “empirical proposition”about the “root causes of exploitation”: X + Y → Z , where X is the existence of differential ownership of means of production , Y is coercion in the labor process, and Z is the capitalist class structure and exploitation. The second is the strictly (...)
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  50. John Dewey (1973). Lectures in China, 1919-1920. Honolulu,University Press of Hawaii.
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