Essay heading: Philosophy of Economics

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November 3, 2001






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Primary questions include: What is economic knowledge about? What kind of knowledge is provided by the discipline of economics? How does it relate to other social sciences and the bodies of knowledge contained in those disciplines? How is economic knowledge justified or evaluated? Does economic theory purport to offer abstract theories of real social processes?their mechanisms, dynamics, and institutions? What is the nature of economic explanation? What is the relationship between abstract mathematical models and theorems, on the one hand, and the empirical reality of economic behavior and institutions, on the other? What is the nature of the concepts and theories in terms of which economic beliefs are formulated? Are there laws like regularities among economic phenomena? What is the status of predictions in economics? The intellectual role of the philosophy of economics Philosophers are not empirical researchers, and on the whole they are not formal theory builders...
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So what constructive role does philosophy have to play in economics? There are several. ? First, philosophers are well prepared to examine the logical and rational features of an empirical discipline. How do theoretical claims in the discipline relate to empirical evidence? How do pragmatic features of theories such as simplicity, ease of computation, and the like, playa role in the rational appraisal of a theory? How do presuppositions and traditions of research serve to structure the forward development of the theories and hypotheses of the discipline? ? Second, philosophers are well equipped to consider topics having to do with the concepts and theories that economists employ?for example, economic rationality, Nash equilibrium, perfect competition, transaction costs, or asymmetric information...
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