Beyond Positivism: Economic Methodology in the Twentieth Century

By Bruce J. Caldwell | Go to book overview

10

Is Philosophy of Science Useful for Understanding Methodology?

In this and the next three chapters, a few of what may be called the ‘Big Questions’ are addressed and some answers to them proposed. Not everyone will agree with the solutions recommended here. Indeed, little consensus should be expected regarding solutions to these problems.

But significantly, disagreement on such questions is eminently healthy. The critical discussion of such fundamental issues yields a variety of distinct solutions, and as these potentially fruitful research agendas are revealed and explored, extended and polished by advocates, scrutinized and criticized by antagonists, the frontiers of the discipline will expand.

The question under examination in this chapter is: Is the philosophy of science a useful tool for understanding economic methodology?


The Benefits of Understanding the Philosophical Issues

The last four chapters may be viewed as an attempt to answer that question, since they contain a detailed examination of the ‘positivist’ era in economic methodology viewed from the perspective of twentieth century philosophy of science. Almost all of the economic methodologists writing in this period made some reference to the philosophical literature; Friedman is the notable exception. It thus seems reasonable that a knowledge of the philosophy of science might be of use in coming to terms with the writings of economic methodologists.

In assessing the methodological literature, we discovered many

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