Workshop (programme): Original Fictions, Hypothetical States and Historical Conjectures in Economic Thought, In Honor of Shirine Sabéran, November 13th-14th, 2015, PHARE & LED (Paris, France)

On November 13th-14th, The Charles Gide Association organises a workshop on “Original Fictions, Hypothetical States and Historical Conjectures in Economic Thought” (In Honor of Shirine Sabéran).

The programme of this event is now available.


From Plato’s ideal city to Rawls’ original position, including the state of nature of contractualist philosophers or Adam Smith’s primitive state, the use of fictions crosses the history of economic thought. These fictions had long fed into the argument of many authors taking various forms: imaginary states, hypothetical living conditions, conjectures on past history and its progress… Far from being anecdotal, their persisting use raises several questions which concern: – The role of fictions: how and why are authors led to make use of fictions? How do they integrate fictions in their argument? Do fictions serve a descriptive or a normative discourse? – The evolution of fictions: How did they evolve in their forms and their functions? How were fictions the same kind used and adapted for different purposes? – The epistemological status of fictions: do fictions oppose experimentation? Is their use consistent with a historical or a factual analysis? Does it allow to reach a specific form of knowledge, distinct from the usual theoretical abstraction in economics? – The status of economic theory: What do we learn from the use of fiction about our discipline and its relations with other fields of knowledge? Does the ambition of scientificity in economics lead the discipline to disqualify the use of fiction, in contrast with political philosophy which willingly makes use of them? The scientific committee expects contributions in history of economic thought both from economists and philosophers. These contributions could deal with the following topics (indicative and non-exhaustive list):

– Plato’s ideal city in The Republic;
– Thomas More’s Utopia;
– The state of nature in contractualist philosophies;
– The primitive state of Adam Smith;
– The « robinsonades » from economists;
– The conjectural history of economic stages;
– The open society of Popper and Hayek;
– The rawlsian hypothesis of the veil of ignorance.

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