Mentalism versus Behaviourism in Economics: A Philosophy-of-Science Perspective

Economics and Philosophy 32 (2):249-281 (2016)

Authors
Christian List
London School of Economics
Franz Dietrich
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Abstract
Behaviourism is the view that preferences, beliefs, and other mental states in social-scientific theories are nothing but constructs re-describing people's behaviour. Mentalism is the view that they capture real phenomena, on a par with the unobservables in science, such as electrons and electromagnetic fields. While behaviourism has gone out of fashion in psychology, it remains influential in economics, especially in ‘revealed preference’ theory. We defend mentalism in economics, construed as a positive science, and show that it fits best scientific practice. We distinguish mentalism from, and reject, the radical neuroeconomic view that behaviour should be explained in terms of brain processes, as distinct from mental states.
Keywords Mentalism  Behaviourism  Revealed preference  Decision theory  Naturalism  Non-reductive physicalism  Neuroeconomics  Belief-desire models
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Reprint years 2015, 2016
DOI 10.1017/s0266267115000462
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References found in this work BETA

The Character of Consciousness.David John Chalmers - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.

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What Is Risk Aversion?H. Orri Stefánsson & Richard Bradley - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):77-102.

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