Philosophy of Economics
The philosophy of economics concerns itself with conceptual, methodological, and ethical issues that arise within the scientific discipline of economics.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
Is economics a real science? Can the study of economics even bring us valuable insights about how the society works? These are questions constantly questioned by, not only those who do not know the discipline, but also the economists themselves. Criticisms of “Economics” as a discipline started ever since this subject was created. The most well-known wave of criticisms happened during the financial crisis during 2008. The serious collapse of the financial market led to the largest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s, causing falling personal income, surging undmployment rate, social instablities, both in the short run and in the long term. When analysing the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, many people blamed “Economics”, as a subject and as a profession, for causing the tragedy. They believed that the unrealistic assumption, bad models and wrong theories created by economists cannot predict and solve real-world economic problems - they cannot even predict one of the greatest crisis in history. Thus, is it true that economics is just a pseudoscience, a useless and meaningless subject?
The answer is, of course, no. However, the answer to the question not that important. What is more important is to understand the relative strengths of weaknesses of methodologies used in the study of economics. This is where the philosophy of economics comes in! The primary focus of the philosophy of economics is on issues of methodology and epistemology—the methods, concepts, and theories through which economists attempt to arrive at knowledge about economic processes. It studies problems like rational choice theory, the appraisal of economic outcomes, institutions and processes, and the ontology of economic phenomena.
From its beginning, economic thinking has been deeply intertwined with philosophical considerations. The most important early economic thinkers, from Aristotle to Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, were of course foremost philosophers. Keynes, Hayek, Sen or Myrdal are also representative examples of distinguished economists who have also made contributions in various domains of philosophy and whose economic work has been largely informed by philosophical insights. Today, the philosophy of economics is a subject that every economist should care about and constantly reflect on, in order to appreciate the importance of economic theories, while being aware of its limitations and blind spots.
An engaging lecture given by prof Julian Reiss in Durham University