Ludwig von Mises’s methodological apriorism is frequently attributed to the broader Austrian School of economics, of which, of course, Mises was a prominent member. However, there is considerable controversy concerning the meaning of Mises’s various attempts to justify his apriorism. There are prima facie inconsistencies within and across Mises’s methodological writings that engender massive confusion in the secondary literature. This confusion is aggravated by the fact that Mises’s apriorism cannot be straightforwardly interpreted as an artifact of his historical milieu. Indeed, (...) the two prevailing families of interpretation both treat Mises’s apriorism as radically anachronistic, albeit in different senses. According to “extreme” interpretations, Mises’s apriorism reflects an epistemology several decades, if not centuries, beyond its expiration date. According to “moderate” interpretations, however, Mises’s apriorism anticipates ideas that would not appear in the epistemological literature for several decades to come. Finally, there is evidence to suggest that Mises’s actual methodological beliefs are not reflected in his writings, that Mises either obfuscated or exaggerated his methodological position, for whatever reasons, making it seem more radical than it was in fact. I conclude that we have no idea what justification Mises actually intended when he asserted the a priori nature of the fundamental propositions of economics. If this is right, then, whatever method(s) they follow, Austrian economists cannot (deliberately) follow Mises’s apriorism. (shrink)
I show how omissions lead to robustness and can justify distortions, and I give inferentially relevant explications of abstraction and idealization. Abstraction is explicated as the omission of all and only those claims that use a specific vocabulary; idealization is explicated as the distortion of only those claims that use a specific vocabulary. With these explications, abstraction can justify idealization. As examples of how abstraction justifies idealization and leads to robustness, I discuss Beauchamp and Childress's four principles of biomedical ethics (...) and the qualitative treatment of the Schrödinger equation. (shrink)
This paper defends the viability of de-idealization strategies in economic modeling against recent criticism. De-idealization occurs when an idealized assumption of a theoretical model is replaced with a more realistic one. Recently, some scholars have raised objections against the possibility or fruitfulness of de-idealizing economic models, suggesting that economists do not employ this kind of strategy. We present a detailed case study from the theory of industrial organization, discussing three different models, two of which can be construed as de-idealized versions (...) of the first (the so-called Bertrand model of oligopoly). We conclude that recent pessimism about de-idealization in economics is largely unfounded, and that de-idealization strategies are not only possible but also widely employed in economics. (shrink)
This paper defends the viability of de-idealization strategies in economic modeling against recent criticism. De-idealization occurs when an idealized assumption of a theoretical model is replaced with a more realistic one. Recently, some scholars have raised objections against the possibility or fruitfulness of de-idealizing economic models, suggesting that economists do not employ this kind of strategy. We present a detailed case study from the theory of industrial organization, discussing three different models, two of which can be construed as de-idealized versions (...) of the first. We conclude that recent pessimism about de-idealization in economics is largely unfounded, and that de-idealization strategies are not only possible but also widely employed in economics. (shrink)
What kinds of feasibility restrictions should be taken into account in practically relevant political philosophy? David Estlund argues that “ought” does not imply “can will,” and, hence, that we should be very cautious regarding the inclusion of motivational restrictions in political philosophy. As Nicholas Southwood and David Wiens point out, however, Estlund’s position clashes with the requirement that “ought” implies “feasible.” The present article argues that even though we must accept that “ought” implies “feasible,” this does not settle the question (...) regarding the adequate set of feasibility restrictions to be included in applied normative thinking. Instead, we need to distinguish different kinds of normative theory that require different sets of feasibility restrictions. For this, the article provides a taxonomy of feasibility restrictions and a preliminary discussion of the adequate set of feasibility restrictions for different kinds of normative theory. (shrink)
There is a striking contrast between the significance of Harold Hotelling’s contribution to industrial economics and the fact that his location model was invalid, unrealistic and non-robust. It is difficult to make sense of the explanatory value of Hotelling’s model based on philosophical accounts that emphasize logical validity, representational adequacy, and robustness as determinants of explanatory value. However, these accounts are misleading because they overlook the context within which the explanatory value added of a model is apprehensible. We present Hotelling’s (...) model in its historical context and show why it is an important and explanatory model despite its apparent deficiencies. (shrink)
According to many popular views in normative ethics, meta-ethics and axiology, facts about what we ought to do or what is good for us depend on facts about the attitudes that some agent would have in some relevant idealized circumstances. This paper presents an unrecognized structural problem for such views which threatens to be devastating.
Subjectivism about welfare is the view that something is basically good for you if and only if, and to the extent that, you have the right kind of favorable attitude toward it under the right conditions. I make a presumptive case for the falsity of subjectivism by arguing against nearly every extant version of the view. My arguments share a common theme: theories of welfare should be tested for what they imply about newborn infants. Even if a theory is intended (...) to apply only to adults, the fact that it is false of newborns may give us sufficient reason to reject it. (shrink)
Economists use various models to explain why it is that firms are capable of pricing above marginal cost. In this paper, we will examine two of them: the Cournot and Bertrand duopoly models. Economists generally accept both models as good explanations of the phenomenon, but the two models contradict each other in various important ways. The puzzle is that two inconsistent explanations are both regarded as good explanations for the same phenomenon. This becomes especially worrisome when the two models are (...) offering divergent policy recommendations. This report presents that puzzle by laying out how the two models contradict each other in a myriad of ways and then offers five possible solutions to that puzzle from various economists, philosophers of science, and philosophers of economics. (shrink)
Economic methodologists most often study the relations between models and reality while focusing on the issues of the model's epistemic relevance in terms of its relation to the ‘real world’ and representing the real world in a model. We complement the discussion by bringing the model's constructive mechanisms or self-implementing technologies in play. By this, we mean the elements of the economic model that are aimed at ‘implementing’ it by envisaging the ways to change the reality in order to bring (...) it more in line with the model. We are thus concerned mainly not with the ways to change the model to ‘fit’ the reality, but rather with the model's own armature that is supposed to transform the world along theoretical lines. The case we study is Arrow–Debreu–McKenzie general equilibrium model. In particular, we show the following: gradient methods and stability could be regarded as constructive mechanisms of general equilibrium modeling in the context of market socialism debates; the obsession of general eq.. (shrink)
The book "Idealization XIV: Models in Science" offers a detailed ontological, epistemological and historical account of the role of models in scientific practice. The volume contains contributions of different international scholars who developed many aspects of the use of idealizations and models both in the natural and the social sciences. This volume is particularly relevant because it offers original contributions concerning one of the main topic in philosophy of science: the role of models in such branches of the sciences and (...) the humanities like comparative historical sociology, economics, history, linguistics and political philosophy. -/- Contributors are: Giacomo Borbone, Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Mieszko Ciesielski, Adam Czerniak, Xavier de Donato Rodríguez, José L. Falguera, Adolfo García de la Sienra, Lidia Godek, Igor Hanzel, Łukasz Hardt, Krzysztof Kiedrowski, Barbara Konat, Zenonas Norkus, Piotr Przybysz, Piotr Szwochert. (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.
As the title of this essay suggests, my concern is with the issue of what are economic models. However, the goal of the paper is not to offer an in-depth study on multiple approaches to modelling in economics, but rather to overcome the dichotomical divide between conceptualizing models as isolations and constructions. This is done by introducing the idea of economic models as believable worlds, precisely descriptions of mechanisms that refer to the essentials of the modelled targets. In doing so (...) I make use of the Woodward’s (2002) conceptualization of mechanisms. It is shown that such models do not offer the perfectly true descriptions of the actual world but justified beliefs about the modelled, precisely they aim at maximizing truth and minimizing falsity in a large body of belief about the real world. The analysis throughout the paper is supported by in-depth examination of the Varian’s (1980) model of sales that is here treated as a representative way of reasoning in neoclassical economics. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The question concerning the connection of scientific inquiry to democratic praxis is central to both Antonio Gramsci and John Dewey. They share a common philosophical origin in Hegel and are essentially both in the tradition of Left Hegelian thought. Likewise, their respective analyses of the forces obstructing democratic emancipation were sharply focused on the distortions of social life caused by economic agents cooperating under hugely unequal power relations. As Gramsci wrote from his prison cell from 1929 to 1937 in (...) Italy, Dewey went through his most fruitful philosophical period in the United States, including his writings on politics and democracy. They both found targets of critique by diagnosing the pathologies of public life resulting from the power of private capital interests in collusion with a co-opted representative body, the authoritarian crimes and attendant culture of fascism, and the theoretical rigidity of the Soviet Marxists. In addition, true to their Hegelian roots, they marshaled their critiques of the abstractions of liberalism and its attendant moral and economic theory by insisting on the embedded, cultural, and historically deep contexts in which emancipatory practice need take place. (shrink)
We make the case that the Prisoner’s Dilemma, notwithstanding its fame and the quantity of intellectual resources devoted to it, has largely failed to explain any phenomena of social scientific or biological interest. In the heart of the paper we examine in detail a famous purported example of Prisoner’s Dilemma empirical success, namely Axelrod’s analysis of WWI trench warfare, and argue that this success is greatly overstated. Further, we explain why this negative verdict is likely true generally and not just (...) in our case study. We also address some possible defenses of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. (shrink)
Mostrando le analogie tra il modello di Homo oeconomicus e quello che chiameremo Animal oeconomicum, nonché la genealogia del ragionamento “economico” applicato al comportamento animale, vengono messi in risalto gli impliciti e le debolezze di alcuni ragionamenti etologici frequenti; revisioni e critiche che hanno ridimensionato il concetto di Homo oeconomicus sono applicabili anche all’interpretazione raziocinante e calcolatrice del comportamento animale.
Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise ? that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.
Social science employs teleological explanations which depend upon the rationality principle, according to which people exhibit instrumental rationality. Popper points out that people also exhibit critical rationality, the tendency to stand back from, and to question or criticise, their views. I explain how our critical rationality impugns the explanatory value of the rationality principle and thereby threatens the very possibility of social science. I discuss the relationship between instrumental and critical rationality and show how we can reconcile our critical rationality (...) with the possibility of social science if we invoke Popper’s conception of limited rationality and his indeterminism. (shrink)
This response to Reiss ?explanatory paradox? argues that some economic models might be true, and that many economic models are not intended for providing how-actually explanations, but rather how-possibly explanations. Therefore, two assumptions of Reiss? paradox are not true, and the paradox disappears.
This comment argues that there is an explanation paradox in economics, as Julian Reiss maintains, only if models in economics succeed in explaining even though they are not approximately true, fail to identify the causes of what they purport to explain, and misdescribe the mechanism by which the causes lead to the effects to be explained. Reiss provides no reason to believe that models that do not describe the causes and mechanisms at work are nevertheless explanatory.
It is argued that Reiss (2012) fails to refute attempts to resolve the paradox of false explanatory models. His article fails to provide an articulate conception of what exactly the presumed paradox is, it suffers from uncontrolled ambiguities and inconsistencies, and it fails to adequately address accounts of economic models that might contribute to reconciling their apparent falsehood and explanatoriness. Some details in my account of how apparently false models may explain are clarified.
Network theory is applied across the sciences to study phenomena as diverse as the spread of SARS, the topology of the cell, the structure of the Internet and job search behaviour. Underlying the study of networks is graph theory. Whether the graph represents a network of neurons, cells, friends or firms, it displays features that exclusively depend on the mathematical properties of the graph itself. However, the way in which graph theory is implemented to the modelling of networks differs significantly (...) across scientific fields. This article compares the economics variant of network theory with those of other fields. It shows how the methodology employed by economists to model networks is shaped by two explanatory desiderata: that the explanandum phenomenon is based on micro-economic foundations and that the explanation is general. (shrink)
Let me begin by saying that I think that George Soros is right in identifying fallibility and reflexivity as important phenomena in economic life, and in social life more generally, and as phenomena that mainstream economic theory has largely ignored. I also agree with Soros that economics is an uncertain science. And I think that Soros himself, being one of the world's wealthiest men and most generous philanthropists, deserves credit for being ready and willing to think for himself. It would (...) be all too easy for him to trot out conventional wisdom about market efficiency, privatization, and the like – safely under-written by economic science. It is much more difficult to question the conventional wisdom, let alone its theoretical foundations. Soros does both. Better yet, he takes the trouble to write down his ideas for public consideration and to respond to requests from academic journals to debate their significance – while he could just as easily be lounging on a yacht eating caviar for the rest of his days. Thus said, I do not agree with everything Soros says in his ‘Fallibility, reflexivity, and the human uncertainty principle’ and in what follows I will focus upon what I regard as misconceptions in what he says about fallibility, reflexivity, and scientific method. I will attribute these disagreements to misunderstandings of some of the ideas of our mutual mentor – Sir Karl Popper. In doing so, I hope to show that some of Soros' ideas may be closer to Popper's than Soros thinks, that reflexivity may not be as exclusive to social science as Soros thinks, and that it may not require a scientific method of its own. Getting clear about this may leave us with a somewhat different view of science. (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)
Julian Reiss finds an insoluble paradox in the claims that economic models are at the same time false, nevertheless explanatory, and that only true explanations explain. But the claim that they are false is itself false. A closer look at what ?truth? may mean is needed.
In this note, I comment on Julian Reiss's paper ?The explanation paradox?. I argue in support of two of the propositions that make up that paradox (that economic models are false, and that they are explanatory) but challenge the third proposition, that only true accounts can explain. I defend the ?credible worlds? account of models as fictions that are explanatory by virtue of similarity relations with real-world phenomena. I argue that Reiss's objections to the role of subjective similarity judgements in (...) explanation illegitimately presuppose the existence of rational criteria by which science can certify the objective validity of its explanation. (shrink)
Is there a unique way to de-idealize models? If not, how might the possible ways of reducing the distortion between models and reality differ from each other? Based on an empirical case study conducted in financial markets, this paper discusses how a popular valuation model (the Discounted Cash Flow model) idealizes reality and how the market participants de-idealize it in concrete market situations. In contrast to Cartwright's view that economic models are generally over-constrained, this paper suggests that valuation models are (...) under-constrained. This serves as the reason why the relaxation of simplifying assumptions and concretization do not work as methods of de-idealization. The paper finds that financial market participants de-idealize models using commentary that takes the form of judgment. As a conclusion, a hypothesis is formulated that proposes that the more underdetermined the model is the bigger role narrative and other pragmatic elements play in the process of model application. (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.
During the last two centuries, the way economic science is done has changed radically: it has become a social science based on mathematical models in place of words. This book describes and analyses that change - both historically and philosophically - using a series of case studies to illuminate the nature and the implications of these changes. It is not a technical book; it is written for the intelligent person who wants to understand how economics works from the inside out. (...) This book will be of interest to economists and science studies scholars. But it also aims at a wider readership in the public intellectual sphere, building on the current interest in all things economic and on the recent failure of the so-called economic model, which has shaped our beliefs and the world we live in. (shrink)
This paper aims (a) to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and (b) to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that ‘all models are false’, which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as ‘partial’ or ‘approximate’. The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: (1) Once we have usefulness, truth (...) is redundant. (2) There is something disturbing about causal structure. (3) It's better to do what one can than to chase rainbows. (shrink)
Theoretical biology and economics are remarkably similar in their reliance on mathematical models, which attempt to represent real world systems using many idealized assumptions. They are also similar in placing a great emphasis on derivational robustness of modeling results. Recently philosophers of biology and economics have argued that robustness analysis can be a method for confirmation of claims about causal mechanisms, despite the significant reliance of these models on patently false assumptions. We argue that the power of robustness analysis has (...) been greatly exaggerated. It is best regarded as a method of discovery rather than confirmation. (shrink)
According to Railton: x is good for me iff my Fully Informed Self (FIS) while contemplating my situation would want me to want x. I offer four interpretations of this view. The first three are inadequate. Their inadequacy rests on the following two facts: (a) my FIS cannot want me to want what would be irrational for me to want, (b) when contemplating what is rational for me to want we must specify a particular way in which I could rationally (...) acquire the recommended desire. As a result, what my FIS could reasonably want me to want is limited by what information my FIS could reliably convey to me. And therefore what my FIS could reasonably want me to want cannot be grounded in changes in desires that my FIS cannot publicly justify. The fourth interpretation limits the scope of what my FIS could want me to want in a way that avoids these problems, but conflicts with standard intuitions about what is a non-moral good. (shrink)
It has always been an important task of economics to assess individual and social welfare. The traditional approach has assumed that the measuring rod for welfare is the satisfaction of the individual’s given and unchanging preferences, but recent work in behavioural economics has called this into question by pointing out the inconsistencies and context-dependencies of human behaviour. When preferences are no longer consistent, we have to ask whether a different measure for individual welfare can, and should, be found. This book (...) goes beyond the level of preference and instead considers whether a hedonistic view of welfare represents a viable alternative, and what its normative implications are. Offering a welfare theory with stronger behavioural and evolutionary foundations, Binder follows a naturalistic methodology to examine the foundations of welfare, connecting the concept with a dynamic theory of preference learning, and providing a more realistic account of human behaviour. This book will be of interest to researchers and those working in the fields of welfare economics, behavioural and evolutionary economics. (shrink)
We claim that the process of theoretical model refinement in economics is best characterised as robustness analysis: the systematic examination of the robustness of modelling results with respect to particular modelling assumptions. We argue that this practise has epistemic value by extending William Wimsatt's account of robustness analysis as triangulation via independent means of determination. For economists robustness analysis is a crucial methodological strategy because their models are often based on idealisations and abstractions, and it is usually difficult to tell (...) which idealisations are truly harmful. (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)
The book reveals different dimensions of modeling in the historical sciences. Papers collected in the first part (Ontology of the Historical Process) consider different models of historical reality and discuss their status. The second part (Modeling in the Methodology of History) presents various forms of idealization in historiographic research. The papers in the third part (Modeling in the Research Practice) present various models of past reality (e.g. of Poland, Central Europe and the general history of the feudal system) put forward (...) by historians. Other papers consider the status of scientific laws and historical generalizations. The volume will be of interest to those who study analytical philosophy of history, methodology of history and social sciences, social philosophy as well as theory and history of historiography. (shrink)
Many models in economics are very unrealistic. At the same time, economists put a lot of effort into making their models more realistic. I argue that in many cases, including the Modigliani-Miller irrelevance theorem investigated in this paper, the purpose of this process of concretization is explanatory. When evaluated in combination with their assumptions, a highly unrealistic model may well be true. The purpose of relaxing an unrealistic assumption, then, need not be to move from a false model to a (...) true one. Instead, it may be providing an explanation of some phenomenon by invoking the factor that figures in the assumption. This idea is developed in terms of the contrastive account of explanation. It is argued that economists use highly unrealistic assumptions to determine a contrast that is worth explaining. The process of concretization also motivates new explanatory questions. A high degree of explanatory power, then, may well be due to a high number of unrealistic assumptions. Thus, highly unrealistic models can be powerful explanatory engines. Key Words: concretization • explanation • explanatory power • idealization • model • Modigliani-Miller theorem • unrealistic assumption. (shrink)
Степента на социлано равенство или неравенство е обсъдена от гледна точка на "цивилизационната парадигма" в ис торичта и нейната философия, конкретно в рамките на православната цивилизация. Налице са устойчиви доминанти, релевантни на "дългите периоди" или "бавните времена".
Gregor Betz explores the following questions: Where are the limits of economics, in particular the limits of economic foreknowledge? Are macroeconomic forecasts credible predictions or mere prophecies and what would this imply for the way economic policy decisions are taken? Is rational economic decision making possible without forecasting at all?