A philosophical look at economics

15 January, 2017 at 13:57 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

pe_picOwing to the elegance of explanations in natural science, scientists in other disciplines are likely to be tempted to emulate this success. While that is a good thing in the sense of striving to observe the four criteria or coherence, correspondence, practicality and economy, it is not a good thing if scientists doing life or social science become unmindful of the limitations imposed by the subject matter of their discipline. The result will be application of inappropriate methodology and exaggerated claims.

Science is generally divided into natural, life, and social science based on subject matter. Science in general aims at causal understanding of a universe in which natural, life and social sciences are aspects of various phenomena.

Consilience is also a requirement in doing science. Scientific theories are expected to corroborate other and not contradict each other in that science aims at a general explanation of “reality.”

As a philosopher looking at economics as an amateur, it appears to me that many economists are careless about applying the above criteria and therefore overstate their claims and likely overestimate their knowledge. as being scientific instead of speculative, and objective rather than interested.

This is even before getting into measurement and historical issues. There really needs to be more attention paid to philosophy of science, philosophy of social science in economics and much more work is needed in philosophy (foundations) of economics, which is underdeveloped since so few people have contributed to it. Indeed, a lot of what passes for philosophy of economics now is mostly ideology. Yet, conventional economists claim that methodological questions are settled. NOT!

Tom Hickey

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2 Comments »

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  1. There are some solid philosophy of science people and material. That does not mean that most economists will pay any attention to it!

  2. It is important to clearly draw the lines where they exist before describing the relationships: the generation of people through cultural forms of family and kinship, or cultural groups is distinct from forms of government which is distinct from the modes of production and their means, or firms. Failing to interconnect these dimensions makes for abstractions which then falls on deaf ears.


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