This paper aims (a) to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and (b) to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that , which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as or . The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: (1) Once we have usefulness, truth is redundant. (2) There (...) is something disturbing about causal structure. (3) It's better to do what one can than to chase rainbows. (shrink)
This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
Computer simulations are an exciting tool that plays important roles in many scientific disciplines. This has attracted the attention of a number of philosophers of science. The main tenor in this literature is that computer simulations not only constitute interesting and powerful new science , but that they also raise a host of new philosophical issues. The protagonists in this debate claim no less than that simulations call into question our philosophical understanding of scientific ontology, the epistemology and semantics of (...) models and theories, and the relation between experimentation and theorising, and submit that simulations demand a fundamentally new philosophy of science in many respects. The aim of this paper is to critically evaluate these claims. Our conclusion will be sober. We argue that these claims are overblown and that simulations, far from demanding a new metaphysics, epistemology, semantics and methodology, raise few if any new philosophical problems. The philosophical problems that do come up in connection with simulations are not specific to simulations and most of them are variants of problems that have been discussed in other contexts before. (shrink)
All univocal analyses of causation face counterexamples. An attractive response to this situation is to become a pluralist about causal relationships. "Causal pluralism" is itself, however, a pluralistic notion. In this article, I argue in favor of pluralism about concepts of cause in the social sciences. The article will show that evidence for, inference from, and the purpose of causal claims are very closely linked. Key Words: causation • pluralism • evidence • methodology.
Thought experiments are ubiquitous in science and especially prominent in domains in which experimental and observational evidence is scarce. One such domain is the causal analysis of singular events in history. A long‐standing tradition that goes back to Max Weber addresses the issue by means of ‘what‐if’ counterfactuals. In this paper I give a descriptive account of this widely used method and argue that historians following it examine difference makers rather than causes in the philosopher’s sense. While difference making is (...) neither necessary nor sufficient for causation, to establish difference makers is more consistent with the historians’ more ultimate purposes. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
A recent movement in the social sciences and philosophy of the social sciences focuses on mechanisms as a central analytical unit. Starting from a pluralist perspective on the aims of the social sciences, I argue that there are a number of important aims to which knowledge about mechanismswhatever their virtues relative to other aimscontributes very little at best and that investigating mechanisms is therefore a methodological strategy with fairly limited applicability. Key Words: social science mechanisms explanation critical (...) realism methodology. (shrink)
This paper discusses and develops an important distinction drawn by Jevons, viz . that between natural and fictitious quantities. This distinction provides a basis for a theory of economic concept formation that aims at picking out families of models that are phenomenally adequate, explanatory and exact simultaneously. Essentially, the theory demands of an economic quantity to be natural that (1) it is explained by a causal model, (2) it is measurable and (3) the measurement procedure is justified. The proposed theory (...) is tested against two case studies, one historical and one contemporary. (shrink)