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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - Introduction


Those who can, do science; those who can't prattle about its methodology.

[Samuelson 1992, p. 240]

If we were to believe many economic methodologists, particularly those attempting to impress philosophers of science, you would think that all methodologists sit around “appraising” the work of economists. I have a vision of these guys sitting around in priestly robes … passing judgment on people such as Becker, Arrow, Samuelson, Friedman, Keynes, etc. On what basis do they criticize such economists? Do they accuse economists of being unscientific? Who cares?

[Boland 1997, p. 152]

Back in 1982, a brief but brusque exchange, touching on the relations between Philosophy and Economics, took place between James Tobin, the liberal, Nobel Laureate, Yale economist, and Robert Nozick, the conservative Harvard philosopher. In the course of a debate … Tobin exclaimed at Nozick: “There's nothing more dangerous than a philosopher who's learned a little bit of economics.” To which Nozick immediately responded: “Unless it's an economist who hasn't learned any philosophy.”

[Hutchison 1996, p. 187]

This book has three separate but interrelated goals. The first is to provide a survey of recent developments in the field of economic methodology. The second goal is to survey contemporary science theory as it relates to economics and economic methodology. I say contemporary “science theory” in order to include fields like the sociology of scientific knowledge and the rhetoric of science as well as the more traditional fields of philosophy of science and epistemology. Both of these surveys are frankly interpretative, but the survey of economic methodology is perhaps less interpretative than the discussion of science theory.