Causal reasoning in economics: a selective exploration of semantic, epistemic and dynamical aspects

Economists reason causally. Like many other scientists, they aim at formulating justified causal claims about their object of study. This thesis contributes to our understanding of how causal reasoning proceeds in economics. By using the research on the causes of unemployment as a case study, three questions are adressed. What are the meanings of causal claims? How can a causal claim be adequately supported by evidence? How are causal beliefs affected by incoming facts? In the process of answering these semantic, epistemic and dynamical questions, the richness of causal reasoning in economics is brought to the foreground. In the part on semantics, it is argued that the meaning of causal generalizations in policy-oriented economics is best captured by using the concept of ‘inferential relation’ rather than the one of ‘referential relation’. This part contributes to develop an inferentialist semantics by distinguishing among types of inferential relations. In the part on epistemology, it is argued that justification in sciences like economics often relies, and ought to rely, on evidential variety―i.e. the combination of evidence from multiple sources. An interpretation of independence among evidential sources is offered: two evidential sources are fully independent if and only if the reasons why they would be unreliable do not overlap. It is then shown that the variety-of-evidence thesis does not hold under extreme circumstances. The part on dynamics focuses on deviant-case study. A storyline is provided for what deviant-case study aims at and how it proceeds in what is characterized as an ‘eclectic science’.
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DOI 10.23941/ejpe.v6i2.144
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Bayesian Epistemology.Luc Bovens & Stephan Hartmann - 2003 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The Scientific Image.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.

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