Frank Knight's 'categories' and the definition of economics

Journal of Economic Methodology 21 (3):290-307 (2014)


In an attempt to combat the positivist view that the only legitimate way to conduct social science is in the manner of a natural science, Knight distinguished between positivist and non-positivist categories or levels of interpretation of human-social subject matter. Since each of the categories contained ‘a large element of truth’, Knight argued that any serious analysis would need to embrace a pluralist approach. In this paper I draw on four separate accounts he gave (in 1934, 1940, 1941, and 1942) of these categories in order to arrive at a more complete statement. This fuller description will hopefully promote a deeper appreciation of Knight's emphasis on the need for adopting a pluralist approach to the subject matter of economics. I then apply the perspective of the categories to shed light on Knight's definition of economics and his criticism of Robbins' definition

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References found in this work

Risk, Uncertainty and Profit.Frank Knight - 1921 - University of Chicago Press.
The Methodology of Economics.M. Blaug - 1983 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 34 (3):289-295.
Methodology of Economics and Other Social Sciences.Fritz Machlup - 1981 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 42 (1):135-137.
The Nature and Significance of Economic Science. Lionel Robbins.Frank H. Knight - 1934 - International Journal of Ethics 44 (3):358-361.

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