It is argued that Reiss (2012) fails to refute attempts to resolve the paradox of false explanatory models. His article fails to provide an articulate conception of what exactly the presumed paradox is, it suffers from uncontrolled ambiguities and inconsistencies, and it fails to adequately address accounts of economic models that might contribute to reconciling their apparent falsehood and explanatoriness. Some details in my account of how apparently false models may explain are clarified.
The article suggests a list of principles that guide this new genre of popular writing in and on economics: the new kiosk economics of everything. These well-selling books seek to show how the simple ideas of economics are able to reveal hidden mechanisms that unify a surprising variety of everyday phenomena and by doing so entertain their readers and improve the public image of economics. It is also argued that there is a special limited sense in which this qualifies as (...) scientific imperialism. (shrink)
This volume serves as a detailed introduction for those new to the field as well as a rich source of new insights and potential research agendas for those already engaged with the philosophy of economics.
If models can be true, where is their truth located? Giere (Explaining science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998) has suggested an account of theoretical models on which models themselves are not truth-valued. The paper suggests modifying Giere’s account without going all the way to purely pragmatic conceptions of truth—while giving pragmatics a prominent role in modeling and truth-acquisition. The strategy of the paper is to ask: if I want to relocate truth inside models, how do I get it, what (...) else do I need to accept and reject? In particular, what ideas about model and truth do I need? The case used as an illustration is the world’s first economic model, that of von Thünen (1826/1842) on agricultural land use in the highly idealized Isolated State. (shrink)
No realist project in and about economics is close to completion. There are many open issues that remain to be addressed and resolved. Simon Deichsel (2011) has written a healthy challenge that should offer some useful inspiration to anyone interested in assessing and perhaps contributing to the realist projects. He argues against realism and in support of some sort of anti-realism. My response first deals with some conceptual issues regarding the very ideas of realism and anti-realism. I will then discuss (...) the role of pragmatics in relation to truth. Finally, I will address the issue of justifying realism — Deichsel’s title, after all, suggests his challenge is directed against what he calls the pragmatic justification of realism. My remarks are both brief and selective. (shrink)
The implications of scientific realism in regard to economics depend on what one takes scientific realism to mean and on whether one lets its contents to depend on the peculiar characteristics of the discipline of economics. Here a revisionist line is adopted and scientific realism is reduced to a minimal version that is able to accommodate as large a portion of science as possible. Among other things, characterizations of minimal realism do not require, as standard formulations of scientific realism do, (...) mind-independent existence, unobservables, and actual or likely epistemic and technological success. To accommodate economics, realism has to allow for ideas such as constitutive science-independence, commonsensibles, and the possibility of success. The task of turning the possibility into actual success is difficult, so requires attitudes such as humility and fallibilism as well as activities such as redesigning the institutions of inquiry. (shrink)
Modeling involves the use of false idealizations, yet there is typically a belief or hope that modeling somehow manages to deliver true information about the world. The paper discusses one possible way of reconciling truth and falsehood in modeling. The key trick is to relocate truth claims by reinterpreting an apparently false idealizing assumption in order to make clear what possibly true assertion is intended when using it. These include interpretations in terms of negligibility, applicability, tractability, early-step, and more. Elaborations (...) are suggested about their precise formulations, mutual relationships, and truth-aptness. (shrink)
Geographical economics (also known as the ‘new economic geography’) is an approach developed within economics dealing with space and geography, issues previously neglected by the mainstream of the discipline. Some practitioners in neighbouring fields traditionally concerned with spatial issues (descriptively) characterized it as—and (normatively) blamed it for—intellectual imperialism. We provide a nuanced analysis of the alleged imperialism of geographical economics and investigate whether the form of imperialism it allegedly instantiates is to be resisted and on what grounds. From both descriptive (...) and normative perspectives, our conclusion is: yes and no. (shrink)
This is a paper on interdisciplinarity and rhetoric. Neuroeconomics is hype, but this does not rule out entertaining hopes about its capacity to produce some desirable consequences. Its "disciplinary conventions" are characterized as those of a young interdisciplinary field. Its rhetorical advantages are identified, and its rhetorical excesses are put in perspective and conditionally excused. Its evidential roles are emphasized, and they are shown to be limited in alleviating the under-constraint issue due to the difficulty of using fMRI properly.
The paper seeks to offer  an explication of a concept of economics imperialism, focusing on its epistemic aspects; and  criteria for its normative assessment. In regard to , the defining notion is that of explanatory unification across disciplinary boundaries. As to , three kinds of constraints are proposed. An ontological constraint requires an increased degree of ontological unification in contrast to mere derivational unification. An axiological constraint derives from variation in the perceived relative significance of the facts explained. (...) An epistemological constraint requires strong fallibilism acknowledging a particularly severe epistemic uncertainty and proscribing against over-confident arrogance. (shrink)
This article shows how the MISS account of models—as isolations and surrogate systems—accommodates and elaborates Sugden’s account of models as credible worlds and Hausman’s account of models as explorations. Theoretical models typically isolate by means of idealization, and they are representatives of some target system, which prompts issues of resemblance between the two to arise. Models as representations are constrained both ontologically (by their targets) and pragmatically (by the purposes and audiences of the modeller), and these relations are coordinated by (...) a model commentary. Surrogate models are often about single mechanisms. They are distinguishable from substitute models, which are examined without any concern about their connections with the target. Models as credible worlds are surrogate models that are believed to provide access to their targets on account of their credibility (of which a few senses are distinguished). (shrink)
A newly emerged field within economics, known as geographical economics claims to have provided a unified approach to the study of spatial agglomerations at different spatial scales by showing how these can be traced back to the same basic economic mechanisms. We analyze this contemporary episode of explanatory unification in relation to major philosophical accounts of unification. In particular, we examine the role of argument patterns in unifying derivations, the role of ontological convictions and mathematical structures in shaping unification, the (...) distinction between derivational and ontological unification, the issue of how explanation and unification relate and finally the idea that unification comes in degrees. (shrink)
Este documento analiza las siguientes cuestiones: 1) La metodología de la economía y su actual institucionalización. 2) La definición de Economía. 3) Las perspectivas de los economistas acerca de la Economía, sus métodos y justificación. 4) Comprobación y progreso: Popper y Lakatos.5) Los modelos y sus supuestos. 6) Persuasión retórica y verdad. 7) La Economía como un recurso para la Filosofía de la Ciencia. 8) Expansionismo explicativo y relaciones interdisciplinares.
A model is a representation of something beyond itself in the sense of being used as a representative of that something, and in prompting questions of resemblance between the model and that something. Models are substitute systems that are directly examined in order to indirectly acquire information about their target systems. An experiment is an arrangement seeking to isolate a fragment of the world by controlling for causally relevant things outside that fragment. It is suggested that many theoretical models are (...) (?thought?) experiments, and that many ordinary experiments are (?material?) models. The major difference between the two is that the controls effecting the required isolation are based on material manipulations in one case, and on assumptions in the other. (shrink)
In order to examine the fit between realism and science, one needs to address two issues: the unit of science question (realism about which parts of science?) and the contents of realism question (which realism about science?). Answering these questions is a matter of conceptual and empirical inquiry by way local case studies. Instead of the more ordinary abstract and global scientific realism, what we get is a doubly local scientific realism based on a bottom-up strategy. Representative formulations of the (...) former kind are in terms of the truth and reality of the posits of current science, in terms of warranted belief, in terms of mind-independent unobservable entities. Using illustrations mainly from the social sciences, doubly local scientific realism denies the global applicability of such formulations and seeks to make adjustments in their elements in response to information about local units of science: It is sufficient for a realist to give the existence of an entity (and the truth of a theory) a chance, while in some areas we may be in s position to make justified claims about actual existence (and truth). Logical inquiry-independent existence is sufficient for the social and human sciences, while mind-independence will be fine for many other domains. It should not be insisted that the theoretical posits of realist science be strict unobservables in all areas: most theoretical posits of the social sciences are idealized commonsensibles, such as elements in folk psychology. Unsurprisingly, this sort of local strategy will create space for realism that is able to accommodate larger areas of science without sacrificing traditional realist intuitions. (shrink)
It is argued that rather than a well defined F?Twist, Milton Friedman's ?Methodology of positive economics? offers an F?Mix: a pool of ambiguous and inconsistent ingredients that can be used for putting together a number of different methodological positions. This concerns issues such as the very concept of being unrealistic, the goal of predictive tests, the as?if formulation of theories, explanatory unification, social construction, and more. Both friends and foes of Friedman's essay have ignored its open?ended unclarities. Their removal may (...) help create common ground for more focused debate in economics. (shrink)
Bringing together some of the leading figures in the field of economic methodology and philosophy, this collection provides a thoughtful and balanced overview of the current state of debate about the status of economic knowledge. Representing the most current thinking on a topic of enduring interest to economists and philosophers and other social scientists, the book is notable for the extent to which authors from opposing schools of thought engage seriously with their opponents.
In a series of insightful publications, Philip Pettit and Frank Jackson have argued for an explanatory ecumenism that is designed to justify a variety of types of social scientific explanation of different “grains”, including structural and rational choice explanations. Their arguments are put in terms of different kinds of explanatory information; the distinction between causal efficacy, causal relevance and explanatory relevance within their program model of explanation; and virtual reality and resilience explanation. The arguments are here assessed from the point (...) of view of the illumination they are able to cast on the issue of economics imperialism, the project of privileging rational choice as a unifying basis for explanations. While the Jackson–Pettit arguments turn out to be helpful in specifying some of the ontological and pragmatic constraints on economics imperialism, they are also shown to conflate distinct dimensions in the purported explanantia (such as small grain and particular grain, and the macro and the existentially quantified) and thereby to miss an important class of individualist causal process explanations of social phenomena. (shrink)
the urge to "explain much by little"serves as an ideal of theorizing not only in natural sciences but also in the social sciences, most notably in economics. The ideal is occasionally challenged by appealing to the complexity and diversity of social systems and processes in space and time. This article proposes to accommodate such doubts by making a distinction between two kinds of unification and suggesting that while such doubts may be justified in regard to mere derivational unification (which serves (...) as a formal constraint on theories), it is less justified in the case of ontological unification (which is a result of factual discovery of the actual degree of underlying unity in the world). Key Words: scientific explanation explanatory unification unity of economics economic methodology. (shrink)
The beliefs of economists are not solely determined by empirical evidence in direct relation to the theories and models they hold. Economists hold 'ontological presuppositions', fundamental ideas about the nature of being which direct their thinking about economic behaviour. In this volume, leading philosophers and economists examine these hidden presuppositions, searching for a 'world view' of economics. What properties are attributed to human individuals in economic theories, and which are excluded? Does economic man exist? Do markets have an essence? Do (...) macroeconomic aggregates exist? Is the economy a mechanism, the functioning of which is governed by a limited set of distinct causes? What are the methodological implications of different ontological starting points? This collection, which establishes economic ontology as a coordinated field of study, will be of great value to economists and philosophers of social sciences. (shrink)
: One prominent aspect of recent developments in science studies has been the increasing employment of economic concepts and models in the depiction of science, including the notion of a free market for scientific ideas. This gives rise to the issue of the adequacy of the conceptual resources of economics for this purpose. This paper suggests an adequacy test by putting a version of free market economics to a self-referential scrutiny. The outcome is that either free market economics is (...) self-defeating, or else there must be two different concepts of free market, one for the ordinary economy, the other for science. Both conclusions will impose limits on the applicability of the ordinary economic concept of the market to the study of science. (shrink)
A few aspects of the issue of realism are addressed in the context of a social science. The paper looks for adjustments needed in our conceptions of scientiflc realism to accommodate some peculiarities of economics. Ontologically speaking, economics appears to be closely linked to commonsense conceptions of the world, thus the problem of theoretical concepts does not emerge in the same form it is often taken to exist in physics. Theory formation is largely a matter of idealization and isolation among (...) observables rather than postulation of unobservables. Given that isolative theories violate the truth in many ways, truth is more of a problem than existence in a realism pertaining to economics. The idea of significant truth -which is able to tolerare varieties of untruths in theories- is suggested to be based on the notion of the way the world works; this is a matter of the causal structure and functioning of the world. None of this is undermined by the acknowledgement that economist’s attittudes and decisions are shapped by rhetorical persuasion. (shrink)
Ronald Coase has been a vigorous critic of mainstream economic theory, arguing that it is unrealistic and that a good theory is realistic. The attributes "realistic" and "unrealistic" appear in three senses at least in Coase: one related to narrow ness and breadth; another related to abstracting from particularities (and the issue of "blackboard economics"); and the third related to correspondence with the legal. This does not yet make Coase an advocate of realism. It is therefore separately argued that each (...) of the three kinds of "realisticness" as a property of theories is consistent with realism as a theory of theories. (shrink)
This is an assessment of two recent philosophical accounts of the nature of economics, those given in Alexander Rosenberg's Economics - Mathematical Politics or the Science of Diminishing Returns? (1992) and in Daniel Hausman's The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics (1992). The focus is on how they portray the predictive capabilities of economics and the links between economic theory and empirical evidence. Some major suggestions of the two books are found wanting in interesting ways. Examples are Rosenberg's explanation of (...) the predictive weakness of economics in terms of its folk psychological roots and his depiction of economics as a branch of political philosophy and applied mathematics; and Hausman's claim that the ?economists? deductive method? is appropriate while ?economics as a separate science? is not. (shrink)
The paper questions Weintraub's thesis that ?Methodology doesn't matter?. It is argued that the thesis is unclear, and when clarified on the basis of textual evidence from Weintraub himself, it is false (or else trivially true). It is also pointed out that Weintraub's argument for the thesis is based on what he denounces, namely ?Methodology? (of a second degree); it turns out to be a ?Methodological? argument against ?Methodology?. The thesis also gives a distorted picture of what many methodologists of (...) economics actually are doing. On the other hand, Weintraub's arguments for why the history of economic thought might matter also apply to much of economic methodology. It is concluded that methodology might matter. (shrink)