Journal of Economic Methodology 13 (1):25-47 (2006)
In this paper I explore a positivist methodological tradition in early demand theory, as exemplified by several common traits that I draw from the works of V. Pareto, H. L. Moore and H. Schultz. Assuming a current approach to explanation in the social sciences, I will discuss the building of their various explanans, showing that the three authors agreed on two distinctive methodological features: the exclusion of any causal commitment to psychology when explaining individual choice and the mandate to test the truth of demand theory on aggregate data by statistical means. However, I also contend, from an epistemological point of view, that the truth of demand theory was conceived of in three different ways by our authors. Inspired by Poincaré, Pareto assumed that many different theories could account for the same data on individual choice, coming close to a kind of conventionalism -though I prefer to refer to this position as theoreticism. Moore was himself akin to Pearson's approach, which could be named descriptivist insofar as it resolved scientific laws into statistical descriptions of the data. Finally, Schultz tried to reconcile both approaches in an adequationist stance with no success, as we shall see.
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