Philosophy of the Social Sciences 18 (3):281-325 (1988)

Philippe Mongin
Last affiliation: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
The article discusses Friedman's classic claim that economics can be based on irrealistic assumptions. It exploits Samuelson's distinction between two "F-twists" (that is, "it is an advantage for an economic theory to use irrealistic assumptions" vs "the more irrealistic the assumptions, the better the economic theory"), as well as Nagel's distinction between three philosophy-of-science construals of the basic claim. On examination, only one of Nagel's construals seems promising enough. It involves the neo-positivistic distinction between theoretical and non-theoretical ("observable") terms; so Friedman would in some sense argue for the major role of theoretical terms in economics. The paper uses a model-theoretic apparatus to refine the selected construal and check whether it can be made to support the claim. This inquiry leads to essentially negative results for both F-twists, and the final conclusion is that they are left unsupported.
Keywords Realism of assumptions debate  Friedman  F-twist  Theoretical vs observable terms  Received view of scientific theories  Methodology of positive economics  Samuelson
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DOI 10.1177/004839318801800301
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References found in this work BETA

Truth and Other Enigmas.Michael Dummett - 1978 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Conjectures and Refutations.K. Popper - 1963 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 21 (3):431-434.
Essays in Positive Economics.Milton Friedman - 1953 - University of Chicago Press.
Testability and Meaning.Rudolf Carnap - 1936 - Philosophy of Science 3 (4):419-471.

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Citations of this work BETA

Problems with Realism in Economics: Daniel M. Hausman.Daniel M. Hausman - 1998 - Economics and Philosophy 14 (2):185-213.
Philippe Mongin (1950-2020).Jean Baccelli & Marcus Pivato - 2021 - Theory and Decision 90 (1):1-9.
Why Friedman's Methodology Did Not Generate Consensus Among Economists?David Teira - 2009 - Journal of the History of Economic Thought 31 (2):201-214.

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