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 2007 is an anthology of classic essays from to J.S Mill and Marx to the present day. Hausman et al 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 2012.
Related categories
See also:History/traditions: Philosophy of Economics

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  1. The Smithian Ontology of ‘Relative Poverty’: Revisiting the Debate Between Amartya Sen and Peter Townsend.Toru Yamamori - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):70-80.
  2. A Methodological Framework to Address Gaps in the Evidence on Infrastructure Impacts: The Case of an Indian Railway Project Evaluation.Sreeja Jaiswal & Gunther Bensch - 2019 - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):32-44.
  3. Prospect Theory in the Wild: How Good is the Nonexperimental Evidence for Prospect Theory?Andre Hofmeyr & Harold Kincaid - 2019 - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):13-31.
  4. Homo Economicus, AIs, Humans and Rats: Decision-Making and Economic Welfare.Diane Coyle - 2019 - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):2-12.
  5. Introduction to Special Issue on INEM 2017.Julian Reiss - 2019 - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):1-1.
  6. Nudge, Boost or Design? Limitations of Behavioral Policy Under Social Interaction.Samuli Reijula, Jaakko Kuorikoski, Timo Ehrig, Konstantinos Katsikopoulos & Shyam Sunder - 2018 - Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy 2 (1):99-105.
    Nudge and boost are two competing approaches to applying the psychology of reasoning and decision making to improve policy. Whereas nudges rely on manipulation of choice architecture to steer people towards better choices, the objective of boosts is to develop good decision-making competences. Proponents of both approaches claim capacity to enhance social welfare through better individual decisions. We suggest that such efforts should involve a more careful analysis of how individual and social welfare are related in the policy context. First, (...)
  7. The Preference Satisfaction Model of Linguistic Advantage.Brian Carey - 2017 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-21.
  8. “But Everyone Else Is Doing It”: Competition and Business Self‐Regulation.Joseph Heath - 2018 - Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (4):516-535.
  9. Posner’s “Law and Economics” and Politics: Bringing State‐Skepticism Back In.Nahshon Perez - 2018 - Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (4):589-609.
  10. Prediction Versus Accommodation in Economics.Robert Northcott - unknown - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):59-69.
    Should we insist on prediction, i.e. on correctly forecasting the future? Or can we rest content with accommodation, i.e. empirical success only with respect to the past? I apply general considerations about this issue to the case of economics. In particular, I examine various ways in which mere accommodation can be sufficient, in order to see whether those ways apply to economics. Two conclusions result. First, an entanglement thesis: the need for prediction is entangled with the methodological role of orthodox (...)
  11. Two Types of Ecological Rationality: Or How to Best Combine Psychology and Economics.Erwin Dekker & Blaž Remic - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-16.
    ABSTRACTThis paper argues that the notion of ‘ecological rationality’ as used in economics has two rival meanings. The first type of ecological rationality as used by Gerd Gigerenzer, refers to the use of cognitive strategies, heuristics in particular, in real-world decisions. The second type of ecological rationality as used in the work of Vernon Smith, refers to the rationality of cognitive systems consisting of multiple individuals, institutions, and social norms. We demonstrate in this paper that their use originates in different (...)
  12. What’s Feminist About Feminist Economics?Sheba Tejani - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-19.
  13. The Historical Roots of Recent Contributions to Ecological Economics: Insights From Reference Publication Year Spectroscopy.Matthieu Ballandonne - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-20.
  14. Levinas, Simmel, and the Ethical Significance of Money.Christopher Buckman - 2019 - Religions 3 (10).
    An examination of Emmanuel Levinas’ writings on money reveals his distance from—and indebtedness to—a philosophical predecessor, Georg Simmel. Levinas and Simmel share a phenomenological approach to analyses of the proximity of the stranger, the importance of the face, and the interruption of the dyadic relationship by the third. Money is closely linked to the conception of totality because money is the medium that compares heterogeneous values. Levinas goes beyond Simmel in positing an ethical relation to money permitting transcendence.
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  15. The Fragility of Results and Bias in Empirical Research: An Exploratory Exposition.Imad A. Moosa - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-14.
  16. Moral Uncertainty Over Policy Evaluation.Kian Mintz-Woo - 2018 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 11 (2):291-294.
    [Dissertation summary] When performing intertemporal cost-benefit analyses of policies, both in terms of climate change and other long-term problems, the discounting problem becomes critical. The question is how to weight intertemporal costs and benefits to generate present value equivalents. This thesis argues that those best placed to answer the discounting problem are domain experts, not moral philosophers or the public at large. It does this by arguing that the discounting problem is a special case of an interesting class of problems, (...)
  17. The Moral Foundations of Parenthood, Joseph Millum. Oxford University Press, 2018, Ix + 158 Pages. [REVIEW]Benjamin Lange - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-9.
  18. Economics for the Common Good, Jean Tirole. Princeton University Press, 2017, Xi + 563 Pages. [REVIEW]Julian Le Grand - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-7.
  19. Decision Theory with a Human Face, Richard Bradley. Cambridge University Press, 2017, Xiv + 335 Pages. [REVIEW]Reuben Stern - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-8.
  20. Computational Agents, Design and Innovative Behaviour: Hetero Economicus.Timon Scheuer - 2018 - Economic Thought 7 (2):82.
    For too long, a majority of economic stories speak of perfectly informed, fully rational optimisation within a purely materialistic world – leaving a lack of evidence and explanation regarding human decision makers and entrepreneurs revolutionising the decision space. Strands like game theory and institutional economics have already adopted a more practical view. Evolutionary and behavioural economics were finally able to establish the necessary links to other disciplines – like psychology and informational science. This paper recaps selected parts of the literature (...)
  21. Cherchez la Firme: Redressing the Missing – Meso – Middle in Mainstream Economics.Stuart Holland & Andrew Black - 2018 - Economic Thought 7 (2):15.
    Aristotle warned against a 'missing middle' in logic. This paper submits that one of the reasons why there has been no major breakthrough in macroeconomics since the financial crisis of 2007-08 has been a missing middle in mainstream micro-macro syntheses, constrained by partial and general equilibrium premises. It maintains that transcending this needs recognition that large and dominant multinational corporations between small micro firms and macro outcomes – while also influencing both – merit the conceptual paradigm of mesoeconomics. Drawing on (...)
  22. The Lucas Critique: A Lucas Critique.Christian Müller-Kademann - 2018 - Economic Thought 7 (2):54.
    The Lucas critique has been – and continues to be – the cornerstone of modern macroeconomic modelling. In this note we apply the Lucas critique to macroeconomic modelling using deep rational expectations. In conclusion, we point out that Lucas's critique reveals a fundamental flaw in Lucas's own, popular 'solution', i.e., the so-called forward-looking rational expectations models. Heeding Lucas's call for model-consistent policy advice eventually requires an ontological shift in economics – which throws the door wide open to an exciting, hardly-explored (...)
  23. Quantum Economics.David Orrell - 2018 - Economic Thought 7 (2):63.
    A decade after the financial crisis, there is a growing consensus that the neoclassical approach to economics has failed, and that new approaches are needed. This paper argues that economics has been trying to solve the wrong problem. Economics sees itself as the science of scarcity, but instead it should be the science of money. Just as physicists' ideas about quantum matter were formed by studying the exchange of particles at the subatomic level, so economics should begin by analysing the (...)
  24. A Common Misunderstanding About Capitalism and Communism Through the Eyes of Innovation.Dirk-Hinnerk Fischer & Hovhannes Yeritsyan - 2018 - Economic Thought 7 (2):1.
    This paper argues that theories of communism and capitalism should not be considered as opposites or alternatives, but rather systems that satisfy different stages of humanity's technological development. The argument derives from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and a focus on the role of innovation within systems. Some argue that capitalism focuses on the lower, and communism on the higher, layers of the hierarchy – which lays the basis for their inability to compete in different periods....
  25. Influencia de la Responsabilidad Social Empresarial En la Imagen Corporativa de Los Clientes de La Posada Del Mirador, En Barranco.Frida Luperdi Cárdenas - 2018 - Cultura 32:15-37.
  26. Reputación: ¿moda o compromiso?Harumi Miyashiro Goyzueta - 2018 - Cultura 32:39-53.
  27. Maurice Allais on the Quantity Theory of Money: The Ontological Restatement.Ramzi Klabi - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-19.
  28. Let’s Take the Bias Out of Econometrics.Duo Qin - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-18.
  29. Sweatshops and Consumer Choices.Benjamin Ferguson & Florian Ostmann - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (3):295-315.
    We consider a case where consumers are faced with a choice between sweatshop-produced clothing and identical clothing produced in high-income countries. We argue that it is morally better for consumers to purchase clothing produced in sweatshops and then to compensate sweatshop workers for the difference between their actual wage and a fair wage than it is for them either to purchase the sweatshop clothing without this compensatory transfer or to purchase clothing produced in high-income countries.
  30. Economics Without Laws. Towards a New Philosophy of Economics.Lukasz Hardt - 2017 - Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book offers a vision of economics in which there is no place for universal laws of nature, and even for laws of a more probabilistic character. The author avoids interpreting the practice of economics as something that leads to the formulation of universal laws or laws of nature. Instead, chapters in the book follow the method of contemporary philosophy of science: rather than formulating suggestions for practicing scientists of how they should do research, the text describes and interprets the (...)
  31. A Quantitative Turn in the Historiography of Economics?José Edwards, Yann Giraud & Christophe Schinckus - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):283-290.
    ABSTRACTQuantitative approaches are not yet common among historians and methodologists of economics, although they are in the study of science by librarians, information scientists, sociologists, historians, and even economists. The main purpose of this essay is to reflect methodologically on the historiography of economics: is it witnessing a quantitative turn? Is such a turn desirable? We answer the first question by pointing out a ‘methodological moment’, in general, and a noticeable rise of quantitative studies among historians of economics during the (...)
  32. Five Reasons for the Use of Network Analysis in the History of Economics.Herfeld Catherine & Malte Doehne - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):311-328.
  33. What Topic Modeling Could Reveal About the Evolution of Economics.Angela Ambrosino, Mario Cedrini, John B. Davis, Stefano Fiori, Marco Guerzoni & Massimiliano Nuccio - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):329-348.
  34. The Quantitative Turn in the History of Economics: Promises, Perils and Challenges.Beatrice Cherrier & Andrej Svorenčík - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):367-377.
  35. A Comparison Between Qualitative and Quantitative Histories: The Example of the Efficient Market Hypothesis.Franck Jovanovic - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):291-310.
  36. Quantifying Central Banks’ Scientization: Why and How to Do a Quantified Organizational History of Economics.François Claveau & Jérémie Dion - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (4):349-366.
  37. Book Review: Philosophy of the Precautionary Principle, Daniel Steel. Cambridge University Press, 2015, Xv + 256 Pages.Charlotte Werndl - 2016 - Economics and Philosophy 32 (1):162-169.
  38. Introduction to the Symposium on the Report of the International Panel on Social Progress.Alex Voorhoeve - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
  39. A New Capitalism or a New World?David Schweickart - 2009 - Selected Papers of the Beijing Forum 2009.
  40. Economic Crises, Environmental Crises: Moving Beyond Capitalism.David Schweickart - 2016 - In Cliff DuRand (ed.), Moving Beyond Capitalism. New York, NY, USA: pp. 83-99.
  41. Team Reasoning and a Measure of Mutual Advantage in Games.Jurgis Karpus & Mantas Radzvilas - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (1):1-30.
  42. Why Should We Team Reason?Katharine Browne - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):185-198.
  43. Can Libertarians Get Away with Fraud?Benjamin Ferguson - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):165-184.
  44. The Small Improvement Argument, Epistemicism and Incomparability.Edmund Tweedy Flanigan & John Halstead - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):199-219.
  45. Harnessing Heuristics for Economic Policy.Ramzi Mabsout & Jana G. Mourad - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):135-163.
  46. Efficiency and Future Generations.John Broome - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):221-241.
  47. The Origins of Behavioural Public Policy, Adam Oliver. Cambridge University Press, 2017, 252 Pages. [REVIEW]Natalie Gold - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):267-274.
  48. Toward a Framework for Selecting Behavioural Policies: How to Choose Between Boosts and Nudges.Till Grüne-Yanoff, Caterina Marchionni & Markus A. Feufel - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):243-266.
  49. Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives , Elizabeth Anderson. Princeton University Press, 2017, Xxiii + 196 Pages. [REVIEW]Thomas Ferretti - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):275-282.
  50. The Logic of Estrangement: Reason in an Unreasonable Form, Julius Sensat. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, Xi + 213 Pages. [REVIEW]Nicholas Vrousalis - 2018 - Economics and Philosophy 34 (2):282-289.
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