The practice of neoclassical economics is characterized as an ?axiomatic positivism?, which is far removed from the official (Popper-Lakatos) methodology of neoclassicism. Hausman (1992) attempts to provide a full revision of that official methodology, for which he takes recourse to the methodological work of J.S. Mill. Hausman's methodology is problematical because of: (1) an inadequate distinction between a normative and a descriptive methodology; (2) an insufficient consideration of the empirical stages of theory appraisal; (3) a (...) misleading account of the tendential character of economic generalizations, as revealed by his treatment of them as ceteris paribus formulations. Further, an arbitrary part of the theory assessment in Hausman's approach seems to run in praxeological terms, apparently divorced from the methodological appraisal. (shrink)
The tone of this paper is largely critical. Therefore, I would like to begin by praising Donald McCloskey and Arjo Klamer for their exciting and provocative initiative in the metatheory of economics. They have done us a great favor by opening our eyes to some hidden aspects in the intellectual practices of economists. They have shown that economics is rhetoric; it is persuasion, discourse, conversation, and negotiation, to use their favorite phrases. They have provided plausible arguments and illuminating (...) examples to convince us of the literary character of economic reasoning, notwithstanding the formal languages used by economists and the positivist pretensions typical of the self-image of the discipline. However, McCloskey and Klamer have been less successful in trying to convince us of what economics is not. In particular, it concerns me that they have opened up a gap between rhetoric and realism. They seem to think that because economics has a rhetorical character, it cannot be understood in realist terms. I will argue that this view is mistaken: rhetoric and realism do not exclude each other, but rather they are capable of being combined in a coherent methodology of economics. It is a valuable contribution to import the insights of the newly rehabilitated rhetoric to the metatheory of economics; but it is unnecessary to marry them with enthusiasm about the fashionable anti-realism of Richard Rorty and others. While this is my overall thesis, it is clear that only initial steps towards its substantiation can be taken in this paper. I intend to proceed as follows. I will first make an attempt to locate the problem at hand in the history of the metatheory of economics. Then I will point out those elements in rhetorical metatheory as practiced and defended by Klamer and McCloskey that apparently have anti-realist or non-realist assumptions or implications, either directly or via considerations of scientific rationality. Next I will formulate a few concepts of realism, the differences between which have been ignored in the methodology of economics to this day. Then I will make preliminary attempts to inquire into the mutual compatibility of the rhetorical insights provided by McCloskey and Klamer and realism in this context. I will show that, in principle, there should be no insurmountable obstacles to combining the two; in some of its senses, realism will even turn out to be presupposed by the rhetorical approach. I do not primarily intend to argue for realism as such in this paper. Instead, I will argue for the compatibility of realism and rhetoric. The argument is based on Klamer's and McCloskey's own commitments; in this sense, the argument is immanent to their rhetorical approach. As a final point, I will argue that one should not be indifferent about realism: it does make a difference in economics and in the methodology of economics whether rhetoric is accepted with or without realism. (shrink)
It is argued that rather than a well defined F?Twist, Milton Friedman's ?Methodology of positive economics? offers an F?Mix: a pool of ambiguous and inconsistent ingredients that can be used for putting together a number of different methodological positions. This concerns issues such as the very concept of being unrealistic, the goal of predictive tests, the as?if formulation of theories, explanatory unification, social construction, and more. Both friends and foes of Friedman's essay have ignored its open?ended unclarities. Their (...) removal may help create common ground for more focused debate in economics. (shrink)
The experimental approach in economics is a driving force behind some of the most exciting developments in the field. The 'experimental revolution' was based on a series of bold philosophical premises which have remained until now mostly unexplored. This book provides the first comprehensive analysis and critical discussion of the methodology of experimental economics, written by a philosopher of science with expertise in the field. It outlines the fundamental principles of experimental inference in order to investigate their (...) power, scope and limitations. The author demonstrates that experimental economists have a lot to gain by discussing openly the philosophical principles that guide their work, and that philosophers of science have a lot to learn from their ingenious techniques devised by experimenters in order to tackle difficult scientific problems. (shrink)
I address the topic of pragmatic methodology as a practitioner in applied microeconomics who has been working in the still nascent field of the ?economics of organization?. My purpose is both to make explicit the methodology out of which transaction cost economics works and to suggest that other theories of economic organization do the same. Conceivably convergence will develop in the process, maybe even a consensus. At a minimum, it will be useful to have each implicit (...)methodology made explicit. I begin with some contrasting views on methodology. Section 2 sets out the rudiments of pragmatic methodology. Section 3 examines how transaction cost economics responds to the four precepts of pragmatic methodology. Additional methodological considerations that are posed by transaction cost economics are discussed in section 4. Concluding remarks follow. (shrink)
Uskali Mäki has offered an innovative scientific realist account of Milton Friedman’s 1953 essay, ‘The Methodology of Positive Economics’, which directly challenges the dominant instrumentalist interpretation. This paper offers critical reflections on Mäki’s approach and interpretation. It is argued that Mäki’s method of rereading-rewriting the text is problematic; that an unforced instrumentalist account of unrealistic assumptions can be extracted from the text itself; and that seemingly realist passages can be plausibly read as expressing an instrumentalist stance.
There is now considerable evidence that economics is undergoing significant change in which a collection of new research programs all at odds in important respects with standard neoclassical economics is increasingly dominating the economics research frontier (Davis 2006b). These new programs include game theory, evolutionary economics, behavioral economics, experimental economics, agent‐based complexity economics and neuroeconomics. All raise new issues for economics, and contest long‐held assumptions. Such a development, however, naturally raises questions about (...) the nature and direction of economic methodology. Whereas economics investigates the economy, economic methodology investigates economics (as does the history of economics). Thus a significant re‐direction of economics suggests there may be a need for an associated re‐direction in the focus and concerns of economic methodology. (shrink)
(2013). Introduction: Methodology, systemic risk, and the economics profession. Journal of Economic Methodology: Vol. 20, Methodology, Systemic Risk, and the Economics Profession, pp. 1-5. doi: 10.1080/1350178X.2013.774842.
Is subjective expert judgment a source of evidence in economics? In this paper, I will argue that it is, on a par with other sources like modeling, statistics, experimental, etc. I will also argue that it is not derivative, that is, reducible to the previous ones. But what is exactly the role of experts in economics? The contribution to the current methodological debate that I propose not only takes the role of expertise in economics as indispensable, but (...) also suggests a need for a methodology associated with that role. I defend an indispensability argument, and indirectly David Colander's plea for refocusing the methodological debate on the lost art of economics. Finally, I indicate where to look for guidelines in formulating a methodology of economic expertise. (shrink)
What is the correct concept behind measures of inflation? Does money cause business activity or is it the other way around? Shall we stimulate growth by raising aggregate demand or rather by lowering taxes and thereby providing incentives to produce? Policy-relevant questions such as these are of immediate and obvious importance to the welfare of societies. The standard approach in dealing with them is to build a model, based on economic theory, answer the question for the model world and then (...) apply the results to economic phenomena outside. Data come in, if at all, only in testing a limited number of the model's consequences. Despite some critical voices, economic methodology too has by and large subscribed to a "theory first" approach to applied economics. Error in Economics systematically develops an alternative to the theory-based orthodoxy. It places the methodical study of evidence at the centre of the scientific enterprise and thus provides a foundation for a methodology of evidence-based economics. But the book does not stop at the truism that claims should be based on the best available evidence. Rather, detailed studies in the areas of measurement, causal inference and policy analysis show what it means for a claim to be evidence-based in the context of a concrete case. The examples discussed concern topics as diverse as consumer price indices, radio spectrum auctions, the transmission mechanism, natural experiments on minimum wages and the evaluation of counterfactuals for policy. Error in Economics is essential reading for economic methodologists, philosophers of science and anyone interested in how claims about socio-economic matters are validated. (shrink)
Milton Friedman's 1953 essay 'The methodology of positive economics' remains the most cited, influential, and controversial piece of methodological writing in twentieth-century economics. Since its appearance, the essay has shaped the image of economics as a scientific discipline, both within and outside of the academy. At the same time, there has been an ongoing controversy over the proper interpretation and normative evaluation of the essay. Perceptions have been sharply divided, with some viewing economics as a (...) scientific success thanks to its adherence to Friedman's principles, others taking it as a failure for the same reason. In this book, a team of world-renowned experts in the methodology of economics cast new light on Friedman's methodological arguments and practices from a variety of perspectives. It provides the 21st century reader with an invaluable assessment of the impact and contemporary significance of Friedman's seminal work. (shrink)
This book is an examination of the nature of economic explanation. The opening chapters introduce current thinking in the philosophy of science and review the literature on methodology. Professor Blaug then turns to the troublesome question of the logical status of welfare economics, giving the reader an understanding of the outstanding issues in the methodology of economics. This is followed by a series of case studies of leading economic controversies, which shows how controversies in economics (...) may be illuminated by paying attention to questions of methodology. A final chapter draws the strands together and gives the author's view of what is wrong with modern economics. This book is a revised and updated edition of a classic work on the methodology of economics, in which Professor Blaug develops his discussion of the latest developments in macroeconomics, general equilibrium theory and international trade theory. A new section on the rationality postulate is also added. (shrink)
In this article, the author offers a discussion of the evidential role of the Galilean constant in the history of physics. The author argues that measurable constants help theories constrain data. Theories are engines for research, and this helps explain why the Duhem-Quine thesis does not undermine scientific practice. The author connects his argument to discussion of two famous papers in the history of economic methodology, Milton Friedman's 'Methodology of Positive Economics', which appealed to example of Galilean (...) Law of Fall in its argument; and Vernon Smith's 'Economics in the Laboratory'. While the author offers some criticism of Friedman and Smith, most of the article is a friendly reinterpretation of their insights. (shrink)
This book provides a methodological perspective on understanding the essential roles of econometric models in the theory and practice. Offering a comprehensive and comparative exposition of the accounts of models in both econometrics and philosophy of science, this work shows how econometrics and philosophy of science are interconnected while exploring the methodological insight of econometric modelling that can be added to modern philosophical thought. The notion of structure is thoroughly discussed throughout the book. The studies of the consumption function of (...) Trygve Haavelmo, Richard Stone, Milton Friedman, David Hendry and Robert Lucas are taken as the case studies to investigate their methodological implications of model and structure. In addition to the semantic view of the scientific theories, various philosophical accounts concerning scientific models are used to shed light on the methodological nature of these consumption studies in economics. This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of methodology of economics and econometrics as well as anyone interested in the philosophy of science in an economic context. (shrink)
From a retail environment, we reflect on the unity of knowledge as valuable in a business context, and from an Ignatian perspective, consider a reflexion of knowledge transfer practitioners to elementary cognition. We deliberate why, despite decades of analytical scrutiny, agreement around the transfer of knowledge into a value item within a business milieu, remains troublesome and problematic. We ask if perspectives derived from an Ignatian domain can allow for alternative elements of analysis and reasoning, becoming more complementary within a (...) business environment. Utilising a mixed method approach incorporating (n=6) participants, the study considered responses overarched by Ignatian rules of sentiment as an interpretive lens (n=18), and utilised a hermeneutic of discernment as a frame of reference. Drawn from a POPC frame of reference, Ignatian annotations (n=20) allow a linear dependence of correlation coefficients to support a correlation matrix. Although not strictly a research method, correlation analysis in this instance permits antipodal interpretation of content between the rules supporting spiritual exercises, and decisions taken by employees and managers. Thus, enabling the study to identify latent causality patterns within organisational decision-making processes. (shrink)
We attempt to clarify divisions made by us in previous work (Colander et al., 2004a,b) between “orthodox, mainstream, and heterodox” in economics, following very useful remarks in Dequech (2007-08), whom we thank. We also provide specific advice for heterodox economists, namely: worry less about methodology, focus on being economists first and heterodox economists second, and prepare ideas to leave the incubator of heterodoxy to enter the mainstream economic debate.
“This book aims to show that methodology is important and useful for experimental economists, but also that philosophers of science can learn from experimental economics”. With these words Francesco Guala makes clear right from the start what moved him to write this important book. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is dedicated to the theme of “inferences within the experiment,” and the second to “inferences from the experiment.” Each part is divided into five chapters.
Foundations of Economic Personalism is a series of three book-length monographs, each closely examining a significant dimension of the Center for Economic Personalism's unique synthesis of Christian personalism and free-economic market theory. In the aftermath of the momentous geo-political and economic changes of the late 1980s, a small group of Christian social ethicists began to converse with free-market economists over the morality of market activity. This interdisciplinary exchange eventually led to the founding of a new academic subdiscipline under the rubric (...) of economic personalism. These scholars attempt to integrate economic theory, history, and methodology with Christian personalism's stress upon human dignity, humane social structures, and social justice. This second volume in the series surveys the anthropological foundations to the disciplines of economics and moral theology. The first part of the book presents an overview of the German, French, and Polish branches of personalist thought. Particular attention is given to theological anthropology, especially as it is developed by such thinkers as Emmanuel Mounier, Max Scheler, Gabriel Marcel, Karol Wojtyla, and Emil Brunner. Part two surveys models of human nature that have been espoused by various schools of free-market thought—including mainstream neoclassical economics. In conclusion, the authors demonstrate how an expanded understanding of human nature can augment the ability of economic science to model and predict human behavior. (shrink)
I distinguish several doctrines that economic methodologists have found attractive, all of which have a positivist flavour. One of these is the doctrine that preference assignments in economics are just shorthand descriptions of agents' choice behaviour. Although most of these doctrines are problematic, the latter doctrine about preference assignments is a respectable one, I argue. It doesn't entail any of the problematic doctrines, and indeed it is warranted independently of them.
Pros and contras of Lakatosian epistemological theory-change model in respect to economics are considered. It is argued that one of the main shortcomings of the model is connected in its inability to treat the social factors.
Francesco Guala has developed some novel and radical ideas on the problem of external validity, a topic that has not received much attention in the experimental economics literature. In this paper I argue that his views on external validity are not justified and the conclusions which he draws from these views, if widely adopted, could substantially undermine the experimental economics enterprise. In rejecting the justification of these views, the paper reaffirms the importance of experiments in economics.
This paper adds a moral angle to the pluralist approach to development economics, exploring the normative assumptions found in all the five main schools of thought that have analysed India's rural labour markets (neoclassical, new institutionalist, Marxist political economy, formalized political economy and feminist). The theorizations that are used by each have normative overtones, which are distinguished here from normative undertones (i.e. elements of meaning that have an affect component). Regression analysis in this literature is used to illustrate the (...) types of undertones that are present. The undertones tend to cause performative contradictions for authors who claim value neutrality. The various moral reasoning strategies available for meta?normative economic research do not offer easy solutions. However they convincingly support the case for openness to a plurality of approaches to research in development economics. Further research on normative overtones is warranted. JEL Classifications: B5, O17, O12, O53. (shrink)
The main arguments currently held for and against the use of self-reports in economics are presented in their relation to well-known events in the history of the discipline: the ?measurement without theory?, the ?full-cost?, and the ?economic expectations? controversies. Doing so, the paper highlights the so far neglected role of George Katona's behavioral economics in these methodological discussions.
The paper aims to assess whether the ideas developed by DonRoss in his recent book Economic theory and cognitive science:microexplanation, which relates neoclassical economics to recentdevelopments in cognitive science, might revolutionize the methodologyof economics. Since Ross challenges a conception of economicsassociated with what is pejoratively called “Folk psychology”, the paperdiscusses ideas of the philosopher Daniel Dennett on which thischallenge is largely based. This discussion could not avoid bearing onquestions such as the nature of consciousness, the interpretation ofontological realism, (...) the relations between agency and selfhood, and thenature and scope of economics. The paper attempts to rehabilitate thetwo pieces of the traditional conception of economics that were mostradically contested by Ross, namely methodological individualism andthe foundational role of rationality in economics. A relativelynuanced judgment on Ross’s bold enterprise is proposed in conclusion. (shrink)
In a recent paper (Denis, 2004b) I argued that the neoclassical use of the concept of equilibrium was guilty of a hypostatisation: an equilibrium which is only an abstraction and extrapolation, the logical terminus of a component process taken in isolation, is extracted and one-sidedly substituted for the whole. The temporary is made permanent, and process subordinated to stasis, with clearly apologetic results. I concluded by suggesting that this hypostatisation exemplified the contrast between formal and dialectical modes of thought, and (...) that it may be in the application of a dialectical notion of equilibrium that the heterodoxy can make its most telling contribution. This paper develops the line of thought that, while heterodox currents may superficially appear as divided amongst themselves as they are from the orthodoxy, there is truly something profound uniting the apparently disparate heterodox trends: the adoption of a dialectical method. I draw on the work of Sciabarra (1995, 2000), who argues that making process primary, which we might expect of Austrian economists, is the essence of dialectics, which we might (wrongly, in his view) identify with Marxism. If this view is, as I believe, fundamentally correct, perhaps (a) we can only understand the method of neoclassical economics by contrasting it with a dialectical approach, and (b) we can explore the potential for common ground between the various heterodox currents by examining their attitude, both implicit and explicit, to dialectics. (shrink)
Friedman's essay argued that the primary criterion of validity for economic models was not descriptive fidelity, but the accuracy and importance of the predictions generated by its implications. His argument was directed against a major current of mid?twentieth?century economics that sought to alter neoclassical theory by displacing the competitive firm as a centerpiece of price theory. The success of Friedman's counter argument was due not only to its cogency but also to major improvements in econometric techniques, data sources and (...) computational capabilities during the last fifty years. As a result contemporary challenges to neoclassical facilities can proceed without resort to the methodological gambits against which Friedman inveighed fifty years ago. A striking example of such a contemporary challenge is the attack on the ?Law of One Price? in the field of Finance. (shrink)
This paper argues that modern economic theory is essentially utilitarian with one significant exception: its abandonment of a multi-dimensional conception of utility. The paper reviews three alternative methods by which utility can be portrayed as a one-dimensional, hence determinate, index of desire, while suggesting that none of them can command empirical support. A second theme of the paper is that classical utilitarianism, by denying the ontological existence of intrinsic worth, implies the coincidence of economic and ethical aggregate optimality: those choices (...) that maximize the self-perceived happiness of rational agents are also the right choices. Non-utilitarian ethics, by contrast, attains determinate optima by means of an a priori designation of intrinsic worth. It is argued that most philosophers, following G. E. Moore, have missed the true issue that divides utilitarian and non-utilitarian ethics, for they have presumed that all ethical systems presuppose intrinsic worth. (shrink)
We find prejudices in favor of theory, as far back as there is institutionalized science. Plato and Aristotle frequented the Academy at Athens. That building is located on one side of the Agora, or market place. It is almost as far as possible from the Herculaneum, the temple to the goddess of fire, the patron of the metallurgists. It is ?on the other side of the tracks?. True to this class distinction, we all know a little about Greek geometry and (...) the teachings of the philosophers. Who knows anything about Greek metallurgy? Yet perhaps the gods speak to us in their own way. Of all the buildings that once graced the Athenian Agora, only one stands as it always was, untouched by time or reconstruction. That is the temple of the metallurgists. The academy fell down long ago. It has been rebuilt?partly by money earned in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. (Hacking 1983). (shrink)
This article discusses two central methodological postulates (adequacy and subjective meaning) pertaining to the social sciences brought forward by Alfred Schütz, and as presented by Lester Embree’s ‘Economics in the Context of Alfred Schütz’s Theory of Science’. The relationship between the postulates and the actual practice of economics is discussed. The author shows how Schütz’s writings describe a spectrum of methods that ranges from low abstraction and an attempt to understand individual plans and purposes on the one hand (...) to highly abstract and aggregate modeling on the other. It is argued that the distribution of economic contributions is heavily skewed toward the latter. The second part of the article presents recent work by economists who have resisted this trend, and who have begun to expand our understanding of economic processes by taking seriously the notion of economics as a social science. (shrink)