Idealization and the aims of economics: Three cheers for instrumentalism: Julian Reiss

Economics and Philosophy 28 (3):363-383 (2012)
Julian Reiss
Durham University
This paper aims to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that ‘all models are false’, which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as ‘partial’ or ‘approximate’. The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: Once we have usefulness, truth is redundant. There is something disturbing about causal structure. It's better to do what one can than to chase rainbows.
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267112000284
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