The methodological foundations of any scientific discipline are shaped by the goals towards which that discipline is aiming. While it is almost universally accepted that the goals of explanation and prediction of natural and non-human phenomena have been met with great success since the scientific revolution, it is almost just as universally accepted that the social sciences have not even come close to achieving these goals. This raises the question addressed in this paper, namely, what is economics, and social (...) science more broadly speaking, for? What is their aim, and how is it similar and dissimilar to that of the natural sciences as we have come to classify them? I take up this question from a pragmatic perspective in this paper, setting economics within the wider context of social inquiry. Specifically, I turn to Hilary Putnam and John Dewey as exemplars of the pragmatic critique of any economics that sees its goals in line with those of the natural sciences, that is, as aiming for explanation and prediction according to governing laws of human behaviour. NB: this is a preprint that underwent some minor edits. (shrink)
Economies are complicated systems encompassing micro behaviors, interaction patterns, and global regularities. Whether partial or general in scope, studies of economic systems must consider how to handle difficult real-world aspects such as asymmetric information, imperfect competition, strategic interaction, collective learning, and the possibility of multiple equilibria. Recent advances in analytical and computational tools are permitting new approaches to the quantitative study of these aspects. One such approach is Agent-based Computational Economics (ACE), the computational study of economic processes modeled as (...) dynamic systems of interacting agents. This chapter explores the potential advantages and disadvantages of ACE for the study of economic systems. General points are concretely illustrated using an ACE model of a two-sector decentralized market economy. Six issues are highlighted: Constructive understanding of production, pricing, and trade processes; the essential primacy of survival; strategic rivalry and market power; behavioral uncertainty and learning; the role of conventions and organizations; and the complex interactions among structural attributes, institutional arrangements, and behavioral dispositions. (shrink)
Several areas of welfare economics seek to evaluate states of affairs as a function of interpersonally comparable individual utilities. The aim is to map each state of affairs onto a vector of individual utilities, and then to produce an ordering of these vectors that can be represented by a mathematical function assigning a real number to each. When this approach is used in intertemporal contexts, a central theoretical question concerns the evaluative weight to be applied to utility coming at (...) different times. This question concerns the rate of pure time preference, which is one key determinant of the social discount rate. This article argues that the standard philosophical account of pure time preference is mistaken, because it ascribes to economists a methodological commitment they need not, and often do not, accept. This in turn undercuts the most common philosophical objection to pure time preference, which traces at least to Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. The article then evaluates three further objections to pure time preference, concluding that it might still be defensible under certain circumstances. The article closes by articulating a final argument that is suggested by the “Social, Economic and Ethical Concepts and Methods” chapter of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. If this further argument is sound, it would constitute a decisive objection to pure time preference as it currently figures in much intertemporal welfare economics. (shrink)
This paper considers the relevance of the Duhem-Quine thesis in economics. In the introductory discussion which follows, the meaning of the thesis and a brief history of its development are detailed. The purpose of the paper is to discuss the effects of the thesis in four specific and diverse theories in economics, and to illustrate the dependence of testing the theories on a set of auxiliary hypotheses. A general taxonomy of auxiliary hypotheses is provided to demonstrate the confounding (...) of auxiliary hypotheses with the testing of economic theory. (shrink)
The 1994 US spectrum auction is now a paradigmatic case of the successful use of microeconomic theory for policy-making. We use a detailed analysis of it to review standard accounts in philosophy of science of how idealized models are connected to messy reality. We show that in order to understand what made the design of the spectrum auction successful, a new such account is required, and we present it here. Of especial interest is the light this sheds on the issue (...) of progress in economics. In particular, it enables us to get clear on exactly what has been progressing, and on exactly what theory has – and has not – contributed to that. This in turn has important implications for just what it is about economic theory that we should value. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper examines Mark Blaug's position on the normative character of Paretian welfare economics: in general, and specifically with respect to his debate with Pieter Hennipman over this question during the 1990s. The paper also clarifies some of the confusions that emerged within the context of this debate, and closes by providing some additional arguments supporting Blaug's position that he himself did not provide.
To understand the human capacity for psychological altruism, one requires a proper understanding of how people actually think and feel. This paper addresses the possible relevance of recent findings in experimental economics and neuroeconomics to the philosophical controversy over altruism and egoism. After briefly sketching and contextualizing the controversy, we survey and discuss the results of various studies on behaviourally altruistic helping and punishing behaviour, which provide stimulating clues for the debate over psychological altruism. On closer analysis, these studies (...) prove less relevant than originally expected because the data obtained admit competing interpretations – such as people seeking fairness versus people seeking revenge. However, this mitigated conclusion does not preclude the possibility of more fruitful research in the area in the future. Throughout our analysis, we provide hints for the direction of future research on the question. (shrink)
This paper challenges Mäki's argument about commonsensibles by offering a case study from contemporary microeconomics – contemporary revealed preference theory (hereafter CRPT) – where terms like "preference," "utility," and to some extent "choice," are radical departures from the common sense meanings of these terms. Although the argument challenges the claim that economics is inhabited solely by commonsensibles, it is not inconsistent with such folk notions being common in economic theory.
The paper discusses the sense in which the changes undergone by normative economics in the twentieth century can be said to be progressive. A simple criterion is proposed to decide whether a sequence of normative theories is progressive. This criterion is put to use on the historical transition from the new welfare economics to social choice theory. The paper reconstructs this classic case, and eventually concludes that the latter theory was progressive compared with the former. It also briefly (...) comments on the recent developments in normative economics and their connection with the previous two stages. (Published Online April 18 2006) Footnotes1 This paper suspersedes an earlier one entitled “Is There Progress in Normative Economics?” (Mongin 2002). I thank the organizers of the Fourth ESHET Conference (Graz 2000) for the opportunity they gave me to lecture on this topic. Thanks are also due to J. Alexander, K. Arrow, A. Bird, R. Bradley, M. Dascal, W. Gaertner, N. Gravel, D. Hausman, B. Hill, C. Howson, N. McClennen, A. Trannoy, J. Weymark, J. Worrall, two annonymous referees of this journal, and especially the editor M. Fleurbaey, for helpful comments. The editor's suggestions contributed to determine the final orientation of the paper. The author is grateful to the LSE and the Lachmann Foundation for their support at the time when he was writing the initial version. (shrink)
Many participants in the debate over the current state and recent developments of economics make claims that are unrefined, simplistic, often exaggerated. This is understandable: the stakes are high, the issues trigger emotional responses, and few participants are motivated or equipped to seek more nuanced analyses. To assert, or to deny, that economics as a scientific discipline or a particular part of it (such as a model) is about reality – or refers to reality, represents it, is true (...) about it, or is truthlike about it – is to make a very complex and highly ambiguous claim. 1 The disputants often make claims that have parallels in the philosophical controversy between scientific realists and their opponents, or at any rate those claims can be partly analyzed in terms of some of the arguments presented in this philosophical controversy. The question addressed here is whether realism about economics is a viable position. The argument proceeds by way of refuting a number of arguments against realism about economics. I suggest a genuine controversy over the factuality of any particular strand or piece of economics requires realism as a general interpretation of economics – or at any rate requires debunking the anti-realist arguments discussed below. “The issue of realism” as most economists would recognize it, is not exactly the issue of realism as philosophers recognize it. “The issue of realism” in economics is about realisticness as a property of theories , while (part of) the issue of realism in philosophy is about realism as a theory of theories . But some parts of the issue of realisticness (such as those related to reference and truth) in economics can be translated into aspects of the issue of realism as a theory of theories. Thus there is also an issue of realism (with no quotation marks) in economics. It is this issue of realism that has to be settled as a prerequisite for critical assessments of important forms of realisticness of economic theories. (shrink)
Economics is a controversial scientific discipline. One of the traditional issues that has kept economists and their critics busy is about whether economic theories and models are about anything real at all. The critics have argued that economic models are based on assumptions that are so utterly unrealistic that those models become purely fictional and have nothing informative to say about the real world. Many also claim that an antirealist instrumentalism (allegedly outlined by Milton Friedman in 1953) justifying such (...) unrealistic models has become established as the semi-official practitioners' philosophy of conventional economics. Others argue that what is the case in the economy and the way economics relates to it are socially constructed such that there is no economics-independent way the world worls or truths about it. On both of these pictures, realism would seem to have little do with economics. These pictures are too simplistic. There is more realism in and about economics than first would appear. To see this requires not just looking mere closely, but also adjusting one's conception of scientific realism. It also requires taking a critical stance on much of what economicsts themselves and other commentators have claimed. Yet, historically, there is much wisdom available in the philosophical self-image of the discipline. (shrink)
A review of A. Hisch and N. de Marchi's thorough historical study on Milton Friedman's life-long work as an economist (and more specifically as a monetary economist) and as an economic methodologist (in his famous essay "The Methodology of Positive Economics".
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)
Hausman and McPherson defend welfare economics by claiming that even if welfare does not consist in preference satisfaction, preferences still provide good, if fallible, evidence of welfare. I argue that this strategy does not yet fully solve the problems for welfare economics stemming from the preference satisfaction theory of welfare. More work is needed to show that our self-interested preferences are sufficiently reliable, or in some other sense our best, evidence of well-being. Thus, my aim is to identify (...) the challenges that remain and clarify what additional work is needed before Hausman and McPherson's defence of welfare economics succeeds. (shrink)
Many economists, it is said, “are inclined to deny that moral philosophy has anything to do with economics” . In this paper I challenge such inclinations bydrawing an analogy between economic interventions and humansubjects research. It is undeniable that investigators engaged in thelatter should adhere to specific ethical principles. I argue that analogousfeatures of economic interventions should lead us to recognise thatsimilar ethical concerns actually arise in both activities, and thusthat economic interventions should also be conducted in accordancewith ethical (...) principles. By exploring the analogy further I formulatesome ethical guidelines for economic practice, which in turn imply thatethical responsibilities will extend to all members of the economicsprofession. (shrink)
Feminist economists have demonstrated that interrogating hierarchies based on gender, ethnicity, class and nation results in an economics that is biased and more faithful to empirical evidence than are mainstream accounts. This rigorous and comprehensive book examines many of the central philosophical questions and themes in feminist economics including: · History of economics · Feminist science studies · Identity and agency · Caring labor · Postcolonialism and postmodernism With contributions from such leading figures as Nancy Folbre, Julie (...) Nelson and Sandra Harding, Toward a Feminist Theory of Economics looks set to become the book on feminist economics for some time to come and will be greatly appreciated by all those interested in gender studies, economic methodology and social theory. (shrink)
This introduction provides a re-reading of Luigi Einaudi’s "On Abstract and Historical Hypotheses and on Value Judgments in Economic Sciences", focusing on how Einaudi conceived the relationship among economics, the humanities and values. In particular, its aim is: (§ 1) to explain the reasons why this essay can be considered a confession of a humanist-economist who constantly stepped “beyond the hedge of the garden reserved to the economist”; (§ 2) to clarify the nature of one of the main doubts (...) that Einaudi had concerning the issue of value judgments, with specific reference to the problem of entanglement of fact and value; (§ 3) to cast further light on why, at the end of his life, Einaudi claimed: “I proudly place economic disciplines within the humanities”. (shrink)
There is an increasingly widespread belief, both within and outside the discipline, that modern economics is irrelevant to the understanding of the real world. Economics and Reality traces this irrelevance to the failure of economists to match their methods with their subject, showing that formal, mathematical models are unsuitable to the social realities economists purport to address. Tony Lawson examines the various ways in which mainstream economics is rooted in positivist philosophy and examines the problems this causes. (...) It focuses on human agency, social structure and their interaction and explores how the understanding of this social phenomena can be used to transform the nature of economic practice. Economics and Reality concludes by showing how this newly transformed economics might set about shaping economic policy. (shrink)
Many economic problems are also ethical problems: should we value economic equality? how much should we care about preserving the environment? how should medical resources be divided between saving life and enhancing life? This book examines some of the practical issues that lie between economics and ethics, and shows how utility theory can contribute to ethics. John Broome's work has, unusually, combined sophisticated economic and philosophical expertise, and Ethics Out of Economics brings together some of his most important (...) essays, augmented with an updated introduction. The first group of essays deals with the relation between preference and value, the second with various questions about the formal structure of good, and the concluding section with the value of life. This work is of interest and importance for both economists and philosophers, and shows powerfully how economic methods can contribute to moral philosophy. (shrink)
Decision-making regarding healthcare expenditure hinges heavily on an individual's health status and the certainty about the future. This study uses data on propensity of general health exam (GHE) spending to show that despite the debate on the necessity of GHE, its objective is clear—to obtain more information and certainty about one’s health so as to minimise future risks. Most studies on this topic, however, focus only on factors associated with GHE uptake and overlook the shifts in behaviours and attitudes regarding (...) different levels of cost. To fill the gap, this study analyses a dataset of 2068 subjects collected from Hanoi (Vietnam) and its vicinities using the baseline-category logit method. We evaluate the sensitivity of Vietnamese healthcare consumers against two groups of factors (demographic and socioeconomic-cognitive) regarding payment for periodic GHE, which is not covered by insurance. Our study shows that uninsured, married and employed individuals are less sensitive to cost than their counterparts because they value the information in reducing future health uncertainty. The empirical results challenge the objections to periodic health screening by highlighting its utility. The relevance of behavioural economics is further highlighted through a look at the bounded rationality of healthcare consumers and private insurance companies in using and providing the service, respectively. (shrink)
The principal findings of experimental economics are that impersonal exchange in markets converges in repeated interaction to the equilibrium states implied by economic theory, under information conditions far weaker than specified in the theory. In personal, social, and economic exchange, as studied in two-person games, cooperation exceeds the prediction of traditional game theory. This book relates these two findings to field studies and applications and integrates them with the main themes of the Scottish Enlightenment and with the thoughts of (...) F. A. Hayek. (shrink)
Economics today cannot predict the likely outcome of specific events any better than it could in the time of Adam Smith. This is Alexander Rosenberg's controversial challenge to the scientific status of economics. Rosenberg explains that the defining characteristic of any science is predictive improvability--the capacity to create more precise forecasts by evaluating the success of earlier predictions--and he forcefully argues that because economics has not been able to increase its predictive power for over two centuries, it (...) is not a science. (shrink)
The concept of the individual and his/her motivations is a bedrock of philosophy. All strands of thought at heart contain to a particular theory of the individual. Economics, though, is guilty of taking this hugely important concept without questioning how we theorize it. This superb book remedies this oversight. The new approach put forward by Davies is to pay more attention to what moral philosophy may offer us in the study of personal identity, self consciousness and will. This crosses (...) the traditional boundaries of economics and will shed new light on the distinction between positive and normative analysis in economics. With both heterodox and orthodox economics receiving a thorough analysis from Davies, this book is at once inclusive and revealing. (shrink)
Hunting Causes and Using Them argues that causation is not one thing, as commonly assumed, but many. There is a huge variety of causal relations, each with different characterizing features, different methods for discovery and different uses to which it can be put. In this collection of new and previously published essays, Nancy Cartwright provides a critical survey of philosophical and economic literature on causality, with a special focus on the currently fashionable Bayes-nets and invariance methods - and it exposes (...) a huge gap in that literature. Almost every account treats either exclusively how to hunt causes or how to use them. But where is the bridge between? It's no good knowing how to warrant a causal claim if we don't know what we can do with that claim once we have it. This book will interest philosophers, economists and social scientists. (shrink)
Given the endowment effect, the role of attention in decision-making, and the framing effect, most behavioral economists agree that it would be a mistake to accept the satisfaction of revealed preferences as the normative criterion of choice. Some have suggested that what makes agents better off is not the satisfaction of revealed preferences, but ‘true’ preferences, which may not always be observed through choice. While such preferences may appear to be an improvement over revealed preferences, some philosophers of economics (...) have argued that they face insurmountable epistemological, normative, and methodological challenges. This article introduces a new kind of true preference – values-based preferences – that blunts these challenges. Agents express values-based preferences when they choose in a manner that is compatible with a consumption plan grounded in a value commitment that is normative, affective, and stable for the agent who has one. Agents who choose according to their plans are resolute choosers. My claim is that while values-based preferences do not apply to every choice situation, this kind of preference provides a rigorous way for thinking about classic choice situations that have long interested behavioral economists and philosophers of economics, such as ‘Joe-in-the-cafeteria.’. (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.
The paper analyses economic evaluations by distinguishing evaluative statements from actual value judgments. From this basis, it compares four solutions to the value neutrality problem in economics. After rebutting the strong theses about neutrality (normative economics is illegitimate) and non-neutrality (the social sciences are value-impregnated), the paper settles the case between the weak neutrality thesis (common in welfare economics) and a novel, weak non-neutrality thesis that extends the realm of normative economics more widely than the other (...) weak thesis does. (shrink)
The publication of Guido Calabresi’s book “The Future of Law and Economics” has drawn a substantial amount of attention among law and economics scholars. We thought that the best way to devote special attention to this book was to devote a Special issue to it. This article situates Calabresi’s book among other reflections on the future of the discipline, introduces and explains the reasons behind this Special issue and discuss the organization and content of it. -/- We emphasize (...) how Calabresi’s historical-conceptual standpoint allows him to isolate the stakes of different future developments around the question of how could further appreciation of legal institutions that defy the standard economic assumptions help the field develop theoretically. Overall, the contributors all shared Calabresi’s attempt to restore the balance between Law and Economics and the need to better account for the “whole unanalysed experience of human race”, often neglected by the Economic Analysis of Law approach. Most disagreements are about the ‘how’. In any case, the search for the Law and Economics ‘not (yet) taken’ or for other “Law and … ” approaches is always open to the Future. (shrink)
This chapter uses Uskali Mäki’s (2009) concepts of “good” and “bad” imperialism to investigate the “economics imperialism” thesis. If science expands by offering (a) consilience, and (b) epistemological and ontological unity – that is, it explains more phenomena with greater parsimony – then this is good scientific expansion. Economics imperialism is only bad if the methodology of economics expands outside its domain without increasing understanding in the above manners.
This article aims at showing the need for a sound ethical and anthropological foundation of economics and business, and argues the importance of a correct understanding of human values and human nature for the sake of economics and of businesses themselves. It is suggested that the ethical-anthropological side of economics and business can be grasped by taking Aristotle’s virtue ethics and Amartya Sen’s capability approach (CA) as major reference points. We hold that an “Aristotelian economics of (...) virtues”, connected with the CA’s notion of human richness, can promote the shift to the concept of personhood, and can lead to a more “humanized” business, by fostering human flourishing, the enhancement of human capabilities, and the pursuit of a more humane development for each and every person. (shrink)
The goal of the article is to substantiate that despite the criticism the paradigm in economics will not change because of the axiomatic assumptions of value-free economics. How these assumptions work is demonstrated on the example of Gary Becker’s economic approach which is analyzed from the perspective of scientific research programme. The author indicates hard core of economic approach and the protective belt which makes hard core immune from any criticism. This immunity leads economists to believe that they (...) are objective scientists and, consequently, it results in epistemological hubris. Due to its tautological nature, economic approach is considered to be a degenerative programme. This conclusion is extended on value-free economics. In spite of these problems, many economists still believe in positive economics and they dismiss normative approaches. It has a negative influence on people. The conclusion of the article is that thanks to axiomatic assumptions economists do not have objective and ironclad methodology and they should accept normative values in their research. (shrink)
An anthology of works on the philosophy of economics, including classic texts and essays exploring specific branches and schools of economics. Completely revamped, this edition contains new selections, a revised introduction and a bibliography. The volume contains 26 chapters organized into five parts: Classic Discussions, Positivist and Popperian Views, Ideology and Normative Economics, Branches and Schools of Economics and Their Methodological Problems and New Directions in Economic Methodology. It includes crucial historical contributions by figures such as (...) Mill, Marx, Weber, Robbins, Knight, and Veblen and works by most of the leading contemporary figures writing on economic methodology, including five Nobel Laureates in Economics. (shrink)
Current challenges in medical practice, research, and administration demand physicians who are familiar with bioethics, health law, and health economics. Curriculum directors at American Association of Medical Colleges-affiliated medical schools were sent confidential surveys requesting the number of required hours of the above subjects and the years in which they were taught, as well as instructor names. The number of relevant publications since 1990 for each named instructor was assessed by a PubMed search.In sum, teaching in all three subjects (...) combined comprises less than two percent of the total hours in the American medical curriculum, and most instructors have not recently published articles in the fields they teach. This suggests that medical schools should reevaluate their curricula and instructors in bioethics, health law, and health economics. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics is a cutting-edge reference work to philosophical issues in the practice of economics. It is motivated by the view that there is more to economics than general equilibrium theory, and that the philosophy of economics should reflect the diversity of activities and topics that currently occupy economists. Contributions in the Handbook are thus closely tied to ongoing theoretical and empirical concerns in economics. Contributors include both philosophers of science (...) and economists. Chapters fall into three general categories: received views in philosophy of economics, ongoing controversies in microeconomics, and issues in modeling, macroeconomics, and development. Specific topics include methodology, game theory, experimental economics, behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, computational economics, data mining, interpersonal comparisons of utility, measurement of welfare and well being, growth theory and development, and microfoundations of macroeconomics. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics is a groundbreaking reference like no other in its field. It is a central resource for those wishing to learn about the philosophy of economics, and for those who actively engage in the discipline, from advanced undergraduates to professional philosophers, economists, and historians. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare the methodology of the Austrian school to two alternative methodologies from the economic mainstream: the ‘orthodox’ and revealed preference methodologies. I argue that Austrian school theorists should stop describing themselves as ‘extreme apriorists’ (or writing suggestively to that effect), and should start giving greater acknowledgement to the importance of empirical work within their research program. The motivation for this dialectical shift is threefold: the approach is more faithful to their actual practices, it better illustrates the (...) underlying similarities between the mainstream and Austrian research paradigms, and it provides a philosophical foundation that is much more plausible in itself. (shrink)
This paper examines issues of ontology and methodology in behavioral economics: the attempt to increase the explanatory and predictive power of economic theory by providing it with more psychologically plausible foundations. Of special interest is the epistemological status of neoclassical economic theory within behavioral economics, the runaway success story of contemporary economics. Behavioral economists aspire to replace the fundamental assumptions of orthodox, neoclassical economic theory. Yet, behavioral economists have gone out of their way to praise those very (...) assumptions. Matthew Rabin, for example, writes that behavioral economics “is not only built on the premise that [orthodox] economic methods are great, but also that most mainstream economic assumptions are great.” These apparently contradictory attitudes toward neoclassical theory raises the question of what, exactly, its epistemological status within behavioral economics is. This paper argues that the paradox can be resolved, and the question answered, by thinking of the epistemological status of neoclassical theory within behavioral economics in terms of Max Weber’s ideal types: analytical constructs that are not intended to be descriptively true of anything but which nevertheless can be used for a variety of theoretical purposes. The analysis is consistent with many of the insights from the philosophical literature on models in science and has important implications for the practice of economics—behavioral and neoclassical—as well as for the very nature of rationality. (shrink)
In the latter half of the 19th century, economic thought in the Germanspeaking world was dominated, both intellectually and academically, by the so-called historical school, from Wilhelm Roscher to Gustav Schmoller and others. In 1871, the Austrian Carl Menger published his Grun&tze der Volkswirtschaftslehre (Menger, 1976 (1871)), customarily referred to as one of the three simultaneous discoveries of marginalist economics-the other two marginalist ‘revolutionaries’ being Jevons in England and Walras in France. Twelve years later, in 1883, Menger published a (...) major methodological treatise entitled Untersuchungen iiber die Methode der Socialwissenschaften und der Politischen Oekonomie insbesondere (Menger, 1963 (1883)). This book included criticisms of some of the historicist principles of doing economics. In the same year, Schmoller, leader of the German historicists, wrote a critical review of Menger’s book (Schmoller, 1883). Menger reacted forcefully with a more straightforwardly polemical small book, Die Irrthiimer des Historismus in der deutschen National6konomie (Menger, 1884). Commentaries by others appeared in later years, but this brief episode amounted to what has thereafter been called the Methodenstreit between Menger and Schmoller. It has been established as perhaps the most famous methodological controversy in the history of the social sciences. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders whether rational choice and game theory represent cases of economics imperialism. It follows the work of Uskali Maki who analyzes the significance and characteristics of disciplinary imperialism in natural science and social science. "Economics Imperialism" is a term often used to describe the increasing impact and reach of economics with respect to its encroachment on other disciplines including political science and psychology. Maki provides a framework for assessing whether the influence of one discipline on (...) another could be a case of "good imperialism" consistent with unification and greater explanatory power. The paper examines whether in the case of economics, "rational choice imperialism" is a better understanding of the question of contention. Rational choice has been used to model addiction, sex, marriage, sleep, and suicide. Applying tools offered by Maki, this paper argues that although the imperialism of rational choice over multiple disciplines provides a unified means of modeling human action, it does not demonstrably achieve deeper understanding of either individual or collective action. Furthermore, rational choice modeling may alter the human practices it analyzes if it is used in public policy. Thus although rational choice offers a means to check for deductive consistency within and among its models, it has elements suggestive of the "bad disciplinary imperialism" that Uskali provides a means to critique. (shrink)
The relationship between economics and the philosophy of natural science has changed substantially during the last few years. What was once exclusively a one-way relationship from philosophy to economics now seems to be much closer to bilateral exchange. The purpose of this paper is to examine this new relationship. First, I document the change. Second, I examine the situation within contemporary philosophy of science in order to explain why economics might have its current appeal. Third, I consider (...) some of the issues that might jeopardize the success of this philosophical project. (shrink)
There is a growing perception among economists that their field is becoming increasingly irrelevant due to its disregard for reality. Critical realism addresses the failure of mainstream economics to explain economic reality and proposes an alternative approach. This book debates the relative strengths and weaknesses of critical realism, in the hopes of developing a more fruitful and relevant socio-economic ontology and methodology. With contributions from some of the leading authorities in economic philosophy, it includes the work of theorists critical (...) of this approach. In the first part, contributors develop and deepen economics as a realist social theory by considering the work of individuals, various schools of thought, socio- economic phenomena and methodology. In the second part, contributors weigh the strengths and weaknesses of critical realism. (shrink)
This is a comprehensive anthology of works concerning the nature of economics as a science, including classic texts and essays exploring specific branches and schools of economics. Apart from the classics, most of the selections in the third edition are new, as are the introduction and bibliography. No other anthology spans the whole field and offers a comprehensive introduction to questions about economic methodology.
Should we insist on prediction, i.e. on correctly forecasting the future? Or can we rest content with accommodation, i.e. empirical success only with respect to the past? I apply general considerations about this issue to the case of economics. In particular, I examine various ways in which mere accommodation can be sufficient, in order to see whether those ways apply to economics. Two conclusions result. First, an entanglement thesis: the need for prediction is entangled with the methodological role (...) of orthodox economic theory. Second, a conditional predictivism: if we are not committed to orthodox economic theory, then we should demand prediction rather than accommodation – against most current practice. (shrink)
The thinking of those with the power to formulate and implement public policy is now almost totally dominated by the so-called science of economics. While efforts have been made to supplement or modify economics to make it less brutal or less environmentally blind, here it is suggested that economics is so fundamentally flawed and that it so completely dominates the culture of late modern capitalism (or postmodernity) that a new master human science is required to displace it (...) and provide an alternative coordinating framework for research and for defining reality. This could then provide an alternative basis for formulating public policy. It is argued that if human ecology is to fill this role, it will must be developed on consistently anti-reductionist foundations, and that such a social science would totally reorient public policy from a domain for power elites to a domain for genuinely democratic societies to define and control their destinies. -/- . (shrink)
(Expected) adverse effects of the ‘ICT Revolution’ on work and opportunities for individuals to use and develop their capacities give a new impetus to the debate on the societal implications of technology and raise questions regarding the ‘responsibility’ of research and innovation (RRI) and the possibility of achieving ‘inclusive and sustainable society’. However, missing in this debate is an examination of a possible conflict between the quest for ‘inclusive and sustainable society’ and conventional economic principles guiding capital allocation (including the (...) funding of research and innovation). We propose that such conflict can be resolved by re-examining the nature and purpose of capital, and by recognising mainstream economics’ utilitarian foundations as an unduly restrictive subset of a wider Aristotelian understanding of choice. (shrink)
The primary aim of the text is to introduce the reader to the relationship between economics and ethics and to the application of economic ethics in the evaluation of the market. The reader will gain insight into: * The ethical and methodological strategy of economics and criticism of the core assumptions that underpin the economic defense of free market operation. * The characteristics of different ethical theories (utilitarianism, duty and rights ethics, justice and virtue ethics) that can be (...) used to evaluate the free market. * How to apply economics in conjunction with ethical theories to evaluate economic trends and policies that promote the free operation of the market and are subject to public debate. These insights will help to develop the reasoning and analytical skills needed to criticize economic analysis as well as to apply ethical concepts to moral issues in economic policy. (shrink)