This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
Computer simulations are an exciting tool that plays important roles in many scientific disciplines. This has attracted the attention of a number of philosophers of science. The main tenor in this literature is that computer simulations not only constitute interesting and powerful new science , but that they also raise a host of new philosophical issues. The protagonists in this debate claim no less than that simulations call into question our philosophical understanding of scientific ontology, the epistemology and semantics of (...) models and theories, and the relation between experimentation and theorising, and submit that simulations demand a fundamentally new philosophy of science in many respects. The aim of this paper is to critically evaluate these claims. Our conclusion will be sober. We argue that these claims are overblown and that simulations, far from demanding a new metaphysics, epistemology, semantics and methodology, raise few if any new philosophical problems. The philosophical problems that do come up in connection with simulations are not specific to simulations and most of them are variants of problems that have been discussed in other contexts before. (shrink)
Philosophy of Economics: A Contemporary Introduction is the first systematic textbook in the philosophy of economics. It introduces the epistemological, metaphysical and ethical problems that arise in economics, and presents detailed discussions of the solutions that have been offered. Throughout, philosophical issues are illustrated by and analysed in the context of concrete cases drawn from contemporary economics, the history of economic ideas, and actual economic events. This demonstrates the relevance of philosophy of economics both for the science of economics and (...) for the economy. This text will provide an excellent introduction to the philosophy of economics for students and interested general readers alike. (shrink)
All univocal analyses of causation face counterexamples. An attractive response to this situation is to become a pluralist about causal relationships. "Causal pluralism" is itself, however, a pluralistic notion. In this article, I argue in favor of pluralism about concepts of cause in the social sciences. The article will show that evidence for, inference from, and the purpose of causal claims are very closely linked. Key Words: causation • pluralism • evidence • methodology.
A recent movement in the social sciences and philosophy of the social sciences focuses on mechanisms as a central analytical unit. Starting from a pluralist perspective on the aims of the social sciences, I argue that there are a number of important aims to which knowledge about mechanismswhatever their virtues relative to other aimscontributes very little at best and that investigating mechanisms is therefore a methodological strategy with fairly limited applicability. Key Words: social science mechanisms explanation critical (...) realism methodology. (shrink)
One way to make philosophy of science more socially relevant is to attend to specific scientific practises that affect society to a great extent. One such practise is biomedical research. This paper looks at contemporary U.S. biomedical research in particular and argues that it suffers from important epistemic, moral and socioeconomic failings. It then discusses and criticises existing approaches to improve on the status quo, most prominently by Thomas Pogge (a political philosopher), Joseph Stiglitz (a Nobel-prize winning economist) and James (...) Robert Brown (a philosopher of science). Finally, it sketches an alternative proposal and argues for its superiority. The proposal has four components: changing the intellectual property regime; instituting independent clinical research; aligning innovators' and patients' interests; and enacting additional regulation. (shrink)
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, which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as or. 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. (shrink)
I respond to some challenges raised by my critics. In particular, I argue in favour of six claims. First, against Alexandrova and Northcott, I point out that to deny the explanatoriness of economic models by assuming an ontic (specifically, causal) conception of explanation is to beg the question. Second, against defences of causal realism (by Hausman, Mäki, Rol and Grüne-Yanoff) I point out that they have provided no criterion to distinguish those claims a model makes that can be interpreted realistically (...) (the model's ?causal content? or claims it makes about causal powers or mechanisms) and those the realist can safely ignore. Third, I point out that Hausman's and Rol's claims about robustness plus the empirical observation that economic models are hardly ever robust to the right kinds of specification changes imply that these models do not explain (which is problematic as my original article argued). Fourth, I point out that Sugden's response still leaves an important question unanswered, viz. what makes economic models explanatory. Fifth, I sketch an alternative, instrumentalist account of explanation and argue that it would fit Sugden's bill. Sixth, I point out that under this account of explanation, economic models would come out as non-explanatory, which brings us back to Alexandrova and Northcott's account and its associated difficulties. The ?explanation paradox?, therefore, remains unscathed. (shrink)
Two approaches to evidential reasoning compete in the biomedical and social sciences: the experimental and the pragmatist. Whereas experimentalism has received considerable philosophical analysis and support since the times of Bacon and Mill, pragmatism about evidence has been neither articulated nor defended. The overall aim is to fill this gap and develop a theory that articulates the latter. The main ideas of the theory will be illustrated and supported by a case study on the smoking/lung cancer controversy in the 1950s.
In this paper we make a proposal for reforming biomedical research that is aimed to align re-search more closely with the so-called fair-share principle according to which the proportions of global resources as-signed to different diseases should agree with the ratios of human suffering associated with those diseases.
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)
In this paper we make a proposal for reforming biomedical research that is aimed to align research more closely with the so-called fair-share principle according to which the proportions of global resources assigned to different diseases should agree with the ratios of human suffering associated with those diseases.
Thought experiments are ubiquitous in science and especially prominent in domains in which experimental and observational evidence is scarce. One such domain is the causal analysis of singular events in history. A long‐standing tradition that goes back to Max Weber addresses the issue by means of ‘what‐if’ counterfactuals. In this paper I give a descriptive account of this widely used method and argue that historians following it examine difference makers rather than causes in the philosopher’s sense. While difference making is (...) neither necessary nor sufficient for causation, to establish difference makers is more consistent with the historians’ more ultimate purposes. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
This paper presents arguments that challenge what I call the fact/value separability thesis: the idea, roughly, that factual judgements can be made independently of judgements of value. I will look at arguments to the effect that facts and values are entangled in the following areas of the scientific process in economics: theory development, economic concept formation, economic modelling, hypothesis testing, and hypothesis acceptance.
Explaining socio-economic phenomena is one important aim of economics. There is very little agreement, however, on what precisely constitutes an adequate economic explanation. Starting from the very influential but defective ‘deductive-nomological model’ of explanation, this article describes and criticizes the major contemporary competitors for such an account (the probabilistic–causal, the mechanistic–causal and the unificationist models) and argues that none of them can by itself capture all aspects of a good explanation. When seeking to explain a socio-economic phenomenon it should therefore (...) be borne in mind that different types of explanation serve different purposes. (shrink)
I present an alternative account of causation in the biomedical and social sciences according to which the meaning of causal claims is given by their inferential relations to other claims. Specifically, I will argue that causal claims are inferentially related to certain evidential claims as well as claims about explanation, prediction, intervention and responsibility. I explain in some detail what it means for a claim to be inferentially related to another and finally derive some implication of the proposed account for (...) the epistemology, semantics and metaphysics of causation. (shrink)
This paper surveys and critically assesses existing theories of evidence with respect to four desiderata. A good theory of evidence should be both a theory of evidential support, and of warrant, it should apply to the non-ideal cases in which scientists typically find themselves, and it should be ‘descriptively adequate’, i.e., able to adequately represent typical episodes of evidentiary reasoning. The theories surveyed here—Bayesianism, hypotheticodeductivism,satisfaction theories, error statistics as well as Achinstein’s and Cartwright’s theories—are all found wanting in important respects. (...) I finally argue that a deficiency all these theories have in common is a neglect or underplaying of the epistemic context in which the episode of evidentiary reasoning takes place.Este artículo describe y valora críticamente diversas teorías de la evidencia en relación a cuatro desiderata. Una buena teoría de la evidencia debería ser tanto una teoría sobre el apoyo evidencial [evidential support] como sobre la justificación [warrant]; debería aplicarse en las situaciones no ideales en las que normalmente se encuentran los científicos; y debería ser ‘descriptivamente adecuada’, esto es, capaz de representar correctamente episodios típicos de razonamiento evidencial. Las teorías aquí revisadas—bayesianismo, hipotético-deductivismo, teorías de la satisfacibilidad, la estadística del error, así como las propuestas de Achinstein y Cartwright—se consideran deficientes en aspectos básicos. Argumentaré que un defecto común en todas ellas es que olvidan, o minusvaloran, el contexto epistémico en el que el episodio de razonamiento evidencial tiene lugar. (shrink)
This is the first instalment of a two-part paper on the counterfactual theory of causation. It is well known that this theory is ridden with counterexamples. Specifically, the following four features of the theory suffer from problems: it understands causation as a relation between events; counterfactual dependence is understood using a metric of similarity among possible worlds; it defines a non-discriminatory concept of causation; and it understands causation as transitive. A number of philosophers have recently proposed that causation is contrastive (...) because making contrasts explicit defuses counterexamples. A contrastive causal claim has the following form: C rather than C* causes E rather than E*, where C* and E* are alternative or contrast events. In this paper, I show that making contrasts explicit does indeed defuse some counterexamples. However, I also argue that the examples discussed in the literature all share a common feature, viz. that the original causal judgement is ambiguous in one way or another. Contrasting does not help with counterexamples that do not have this feature. Part II of this paper then takes up the hard cases. (shrink)
This paper examines Patrick Suppes’ probabilistic theory of causality understood as a theory of causal inference, and draws some lessons for empirical economics and contemporary debates in the foundations of econometrics. It argues that a standard method of empirical economics, multiple regression, is inadequate for most but the simplest applications, that the Bayes’ nets approach, which can be understood as a generalisation of Suppes’ theory, constitutes a considerable improvement but is still subject to important limitations, and that the currently fashionable (...) ‘design-based approach’ suffers from the same flaws Suppes anticipated a long time ago. It then sketches an alternative in response, one that differs drastically from the formalisms Suppes endorsed but is consistent with his pragmatic general take on science. (shrink)
In recent years, a number of philosophers have attempted to fix paradoxes of the counterfactual account of causation by making causation contrastive. In this framework, causation is understood to be not a two-place relationship between a cause and an effect but a three or four-place relationship between a cause, an effect and a contrast on the side of the cause, the effect or both. I argue that contrasting helps resolving certain paradoxes only if an account of admissibility of the chosen (...) set of contrasts is given. I show by means of numerous examples that it is contextual features that determine admissibility. This way, context becomes part of the semantics of causation. I finally argue that once contextualised, explicit contrasting is redundant: causation is therefore a three-place relationship between a cause, an effect and a context. (shrink)
This paper presents an outline of a methodology of ?evidence-based economics?. The question whether an economic statement is evidence-based must be answered on three different levels. The first level concerns measurement: it asks whether claims made about economic quantities such as inflation, unemployment, growth or poverty are justified by the data and measurement procedures. The second level concerns induction: it asks whether claims made about the relations between economic quantities , are justified by the inference procedures. The third level concerns (...) idealisation: it asks whether the quantities and relations selected are justified by the stated aim of the inquiry. The paper provides a discussion of these three types of investigation and of some solutions that have been offered. (shrink)
This paper looks at an appeal to the authority of biomedical research that has recently been used by empirical economists to motivate and justify their methods. I argue that those who make this appeal mistake the nature of biomedical research. Randomised trials, which are said to have revolutionised biomedical research, are a central methodology, but according to only one paradigm. There is another paradigm at work in biomedical research, the inferentialist paradigm, in which randomised trials play no special role. I (...) outline the inferentialist alternative in broad strokes, apply it to a recent controversy in econometrics and draw some general conclusions concerning econometric methodology. (shrink)
This paper discusses and develops an important distinction drawn by Jevons, viz . that between natural and fictitious quantities. This distinction provides a basis for a theory of economic concept formation that aims at picking out families of models that are phenomenally adequate, explanatory and exact simultaneously. Essentially, the theory demands of an economic quantity to be natural that (1) it is explained by a causal model, (2) it is measurable and (3) the measurement procedure is justified. The proposed theory (...) is tested against two case studies, one historical and one contemporary. (shrink)
L’analyse singulariste de la relation causale Dans l’un de ses textes les plus souvent lus, « Possibilité objective et causalité adéquate en histoire », Max Weber introduit ainsi la procédure de base de l’analyse singulariste des relations causales : L’attribution des effets aux causes prend place à travers un processus de pensée qui inclut une série d’abstractions. La première et la plus décisive a lieu quand nous concevons que l’une ou plusieurs des composantes causales sont modifiées dans ..
In this book, Reiss argues in favor of a tight fit between evidence, concept and purpose in our causal investigations in the sciences. There is no doubt that the sciences employ a vast array of techniques to address causal questions such as controlled experiments, randomized trials, statistical and econometric tools, causal modeling and thought experiments. But how do these different methods relate to each other and to the causal inquiry at hand? Reiss argues that there is no "gold standard" in (...) settling causal issues against which other methods can be measured. Rather, the various methods of inference tend to be good only relative to certain interpretations of the word "cause", and each interpretation, in turn, helps to address some salient purpose but not others. The main objective of this book is to explore the metaphysical and methodological consequences of this view in the context of numerous cases studies from the natural and social sciences. (shrink)