Conference (programme): 2nd International Conference “Economic Philosophy”, October 9th-10th, 2014, BETA (Strasbourg, France)

The Second International Conference “Economic Philosophy” will be held at the University of Strasbourg from 9th to 10th October 2014. This conference is organized by the Bureau d’Economie Théorique et Appliquée (BETA, UMR 7522 of CNRS).

The provisional programme is available now.

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Article: Feriel Kandil, “La justice est aveugle, Rawls, Harsanyi et le voile d’ignorance” (Revue économique)

An article has recently been published by the Revue économique:

Feriel Kandil, “La justice est aveugle, Rawls, Harsanyi et le voile d’ignorance [The blindness of justice. Rawls, Harsanyi and the veil of ignorance]” (RE, vol. 65/1, pp. 97-124).

Abstract: The paper shows that, when dealing with social justice, it is necessary but not sufficient to consider the social evaluator as placed behind a veil of ignorance. Then, her judgements are conform to the moral principle of universalisation and thus are impartial. But the way such judgements should be modelled depends on the interpretation, whether utilitarian or Kantian, given to the universalisation principle. The article compares the utilitarian model of the impartial observer from Harsanyi with the Kantian model of the ignorant observer from Gajdos and Kandil. It defends the latter, which shows that, differently to what Rawls claimed, the maximin is not the unique rule of decision under ignorance.

Classification JEL : B41, D60, D63

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Seminar: Manuela Fernández Pinto, September 22nd, 2014, TINT (Helsinki, Finland)

On September 22nd, Manuela Fernández Pinto (Unversity of Helsinki) will present one of her works in the Research seminar of TINT (from 2.00 to 4.00 pm, University of Helsinki, Main Building, room 4). The title of her presentation will be “Economics Imperialism in Social Epistemology: A Case for Pluralism.

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Book: Eric Maskin & Amartya Sen (eds), “The Arrow Impossibility Theorem” (Columbia University Press, 2014)

Eric Maskin & Amartya Sen have recently edited a collective book entitled The Arrow Impossibility Theorem (Columbia University Press, 2014, 168 pages).

Abstract: Kenneth J. Arrow’s pathbreaking “impossibility theorem” was a watershed innovation in the history of welfare economics, voting theory, and collective choice, demonstrating that there is no voting rule that satisfies the four desirable axioms of decisiveness, consensus, nondictatorship, and independence.

In this book Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen explore the implications of Arrow’s theorem. Sen considers its ongoing utility, exploring the theorem’s value and limitations in relation to recent research on social reasoning, and Maskin discusses how to design a voting rule that gets us closer to the ideal—given the impossibility of achieving the ideal. The volume also contains a contextual introduction by social choice scholar Prasanta K. Pattanaik and commentaries from Joseph E. Stiglitz and Kenneth J. Arrow himself, as well as essays by Maskin, Dasgupta, and Sen outlining the mathematical proof and framework behind their assertions.

Introduction, by Prasanta K. Pattanaik
Part 1: The Lectures
Opening Remarks, by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Arrow and the Impossibility Theorem, by Amartya Sen
The Arrow Impossibility Theorem: Where Do We Go From Here?, by Eric Maskin
Commentary, by Kenneth J. Arrow
Part II: Supplemental Materials
The Informational Basis of Social Choice, by Amartya Sen
On The Robustness of Majority Rule, by Partha Dasgupta & Eric Maskin
The Origins of the Impossibility Theorem, by Kenneth J. Arrow

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Article: Itzhak Gilboa, Andrew Postlewaite, Larry Samuelson & David Schmeidler, “Economic Models as Analogies” (The Economic Journal)

An article has recently been published by the Economic Journal:

Itzhak Gilboa, Andrew Postlewaite, Larry Samuelson & David Schmeidler, “Economic Models as Analogies” (EC, vol. 124/578 (August 2014), pp. F513-F533).

Abstract: People often wonder why economists analyse models whose assumptions are known to be false, while economists feel that they learn a lot from such exercises. We suggest that part of the knowledge generated by academic economists is case-based rather than rule-based. That is, instead of offering general rules or theories that should be contrasted with data, economists often analyse models that are ‘theoretical cases’, which help understand economic problems by drawing analogies between the model and the problem. Thus, economic models, empirical data, experimental results and other sources of knowledge are all on equal footing, that is, they all provide cases to which a given problem can be compared. We offer complexity arguments that explain why case-based reasoning may sometimes be the method of choice and why economists prefer simple cases.

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Book: Harro Maas, Economic Methodology: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2014)

Harro Maas (Utrecht University School of Economics Chair of Economics of the Welfare State) has recently published a book entitled Economic Methodology: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2014, 188 pages).

Abstract: Ever since the inception of economics over two hundred years ago, the tools at the discipline’s disposal have grown more and more more sophisticated. This book provides a historical introduction to the methodology of economics through the eyes of economists.

The story begins with John Stuart Mill’s seminal essay from 1836 on the definition and method of political economy, which is then followed by an examination of how the actual practices of economists changed over time to such an extent that they not only altered their methods of enquiry, but also their self-perception as economists. Beginning as intellectuals and journalists operating to a large extent in the public sphere, they then transformed into experts who developed their tools of research increasingly behind the scenes. No longer did they try to influence policy agendas through public discourse; rather they targeted policymakers directly and with instruments that showed them as independent and objective policy advisors, the tools of the trade changing all the while.

In order to shed light on this evolution of economic methodology, this book takes carefully selected snapshots from the discipline’s history. It tracks the process of development through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, analysing the growth of empirical and mathematical modelling. It also looks at the emergence of the experiment in economics, in addition to the similarities and differences between modelling and experimentation.

This book will be relevant reading for students and academics in the fields of economic methodology, history of economics, and history and philosophy of the social sciences.

1. Introduction
2. Economics: Inductive or deductive science?
3. Economics and Statistics
4. Business-Cycle Research: The rise of modelling
5. John Maynard Keynes and Jan Tinbergen: The dramatist and the model-builder
6. Milton Friedman and the Cowles Commission for Econometric Research: Structural models and ‘as if’ methodology
7. Modelling Between Fact and Fiction: Thought experiments in economics
8. Experimentation in Economics
9. Simulation with Models
10. Economics as Science
11. Further Reading

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Journal: Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 44/5 (September 2014)

The latest issue of the Philosophy of Social Sciences journal (Vol. 44/5) has just beenpublished. The table of content is available below:

Marion Godman, Michiru Nagatsu, & Mikko Salmela,The Social Motivation Hypothesis for Prosocial Behavior“,
Hsiang-Ke Chao, “Models and Credibility“,
Roberto Fumagalli, “Neural Findings and Economic Models: Why Brains Have Limited Relevance for Economic“,
Olivier Ouzilou, “Epistemic Context and Structural Explanation of Belief“,
Lorenzo Casini, “Not-So-Minimal Models: Between Isolation and Imagination“.

Review Essay:
Joseph Agassi, “Honesty Still Is the Best Policy” (on Steve Fuller, The Sociology of Intellectual Life: The Career of the Mind in and around the Academy),
Nimrod Bar-Am, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, fourth edition, 50th anniversary”.

Book reviews:
Sheldon Richmond, “Book Review: Towards Discursive Education, Philosophy, Technology, and Modern Education”.

See more at:

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Article: Cyril Hédoin, “Models in Economics Are Not (Always) Nomological Machines: A Pragmatic Approach to Economists’ Modeling Practices ” (Philosophy of the Social Sciences)

An article has recently been published by the journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences:

Cyril Hédoin, “Models in Economics Are Not (Always) Nomological Machines: A Pragmatic Approach to Economists’ Modeling Practice” (POSS, vol. 44/4 (July 2014), pp. 424-459).

Abstract: This paper evaluates Nancy Cartwright’s critique of economic models. Cartwright argues that economics fails to build relevant “nomological machines” able to isolate capacities. In this paper, I contend that many economic models are not used as nomological machines. I give some evidence for this claim and build on an inferential and pragmatic approach to economic modeling. Modeling in economics responds to peculiar inferential norms where a “good” model is essentially a model that enhances our knowledge about possible worlds. As a consequence, models and experiments are very different knowledge-producing devices, at least in economics.

Keywords: Nancy Cartwright, economic models, nomological machines, inferential norms, experiments.

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Working Paper: Robert Lepenies, “Economists as Political Philosophers – A Critique of Normative Trade Theory”

Robert Lepenies has recently published online a working paper entitled “Economists as Political Philosophers – A Critique of Normative Trade Theory“.

Abstract: Economists are political philosophers. This claim is defended based on an investigation of normative arguments made in economics textbooks. The paper aims to explain, reconstruct and contest the neoclassical vision implicit in mainstream economic trade theory. Analyzing arguments made by international economists from the perspective of political philosophy, I show how the contemporary defence of free markets and trade liberalization is linked to a specific normative ideal of the political and social good.

Keywords: Political Philosophy, Neoclassical Economics, Normative Trade Theory, Free Trade, Efficiency, Textbooks, Kaldor-Hicks, Neoclassical Vision.

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Working Paper: Stavros Drakopoulos, “Mainstream Aversion to Economic Methodology and the Scientific Ideal of Physics”

Stavros Drakopoulos has recently published online a working paper entitled “Mainstream Aversion to Economic Methodology and the Scientific Ideal of Physics“.

Abstract: There is a persistent aversion towards methodological discourse by most mainstream economists. Frank Hahn (1992) exemplified this attitude and provoked a number of reactions concerning the role and the reasons for methodological aversion. After offering a categorization of the main explanations for methodological aversion, the paper suggests an explanation that is based on the role of the physics scientific ideal. It argues that the strive to achieve the high scientific status of physics by following the methods of physics, contributed to the negative mainstream attitude towards economic methodology. This can be reinforced by examining the writings of extremely influential mainstream economists such as Irwin Fisher and Milton Friedman. These works clearly imply that the hard science status of economics renders methodological discussions and especially methodological criticism, rather pointless. Given that the existing prescriptions for making economic methodology more attractive do not give much thought to this important aspect of mainstream economics, the paper also argues for a more systematic discussion of this issue.

Keywords: Economic Methodology; History of Economic Thought; Economics and Physics.

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