Towards a methodology of tendencies

Journal of Economic Methodology 3 (2):261-284 (1996)
Abstract
The paper attempts to think through some aspects of a methodology for tendencies, taking Menger as an important source of inspiration. The contrast between laws and tendencies is emphasized, whereby laws posit necessary connections between cause and effect and refer to historically specific events and tendencies describe loose connections between cause and effect and refer to broad Hayekian patterns of events. Emphasis is placed on the importance of isolating as well as ?patterning? abstraction for the social sciences, which is traced back to Menger. The implications for method of these two forms of abstraction are elaborated. Some topical controversies are discussed along the way, such as the rigour/relevance dilemma, the realisticness of the rationality principle and the intra-Austrian dispute between the radical subjectivists and the ?middle grounders?. The use and importance of an Aristotelian ontology, prevalent in Menger, is discussed as well.
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