Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

MENTALISM VERSUS BEHAVIOURISM IN ECONOMICS: A PHILOSOPHY-OF-SCIENCE PERSPECTIVE

  • Franz Dietrich (a1) and Christian List (a2)

Abstract:

Behaviourism is the view that preferences, beliefs and other mental states in social-scientific theories are nothing but constructs re-describing people’s behaviour. Mentalism is the view that they capture real phenomena, on a par with the unobservables in science, such as electrons and electromagnetic fields. While behaviourism has gone out of fashion in psychology, it remains influential in economics, especially in ‘revealed preference’ theory. We defend mentalism in economics, construed as a positive science, and show that it fits best scientific practice. We distinguish mentalism from, and reject, the radical neuroeconomic view that behaviour should be explained in terms of brain processes, as distinct from mental states.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Aumann, R. and Brandenburger, A.. 1995. Epistemic conditions for Nash Equilibrium. Econometrica 63: 11611180.
Bénabou, R. and Tirole, J.. 2003. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Review of Economic Studies 70: 489520.
Bennett, M., Dennett, D., Hacker, P. and Searle, J.. 2007. Neuroscience and Philosophy. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Bermudez, J. L. 2009. Decision Theory and Rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bhattacharyya, A., Pattanaik, P. K. and Xu, Y.. 2011. Choice, internal consistency and rationality. Economics and Philosophy 27: 123149.
Block, N. (ed.) 1980. What is functionalism? In Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1, 171184. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bossert, W. and Suzumura, K.. 2009. External norms and rationality of choice. Economics and Philosophy 25: 139152.
Bossert, W. and Suzumura, K.. 2010. Consistency, Choice, and Rationality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Brennan, G. and Pettit, P.. 2005. The Economy of Esteem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bricker, P. 2014. Ontological commitment. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), ed. Zalta, E. N.. URL: <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/ontological-commitment/>.
Camerer, C. F., Loewenstein, G. and Rabin, M., eds. 2004. Advances in Behavioral Economics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Camerer, C. F., Loewenstein, G. and Prelec, D.. 2005. Neuroeconomics: how neuroscience can inform economics. Journal of Economic Literature 43: 964.
Caplin, A. and Schotter, A., eds. 2008. The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chakravartty, A. 2014. Scientific realism. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), ed. Zalta, E. N.. URL: <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/scientific-realism/>.
Chalmers, D. 2010. The Character of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cherepanov, V., Feddersen, T. and Sandroni, A.. 2013. Rationalization. Theoretical Economics 8: 775800.
Chomsky, N. 1959. A review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Language 35: 2658.
Conradt, L. and List, C., eds. 2009. Group decision making in humans and animals. Theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364: 717852.
Cozic, M. 2012. Economie ‘sans esprit’ et données cognitives. Working paper, Institut d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris.
Craver, C. F. and Alexandrova, A.. 2008. No revolution necessary: neural mechanisms for economics. Economics and Philosophy 24: 381406.
Davidson, D. 1973. Radical interpretation. Dialectica 27: 313328.
Dennett, D. 1987. The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Dietrich, F. 2012. Modelling change in individual characteristics: an axiomatic framework. Games and Economic Behavior 76: 471494.
Dietrich, F. and List, C.. 2013a. A reason-based theory of rational choice. Noûs 47: 104134.
Dietrich, F. and List, C.. 2013b. Where do preferences come from? International Journal of Game Theory 42: 613637.
Dietrich, F. and List, C.. 2016. Reason-based choice and context-dependence: an explanatory framework. Economics and Philosophy 32. doi: 10.1017/S0266267115000474.
Edwards, J. M. 2008. On behaviorism, introspection, psychology and economics. Working paper, University of Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris.
Elster, J. 1998. Emotions and economic theory. Journal of Economic Literature 36: 4774.
Fine, A. 1984. The natural ontological attitude. In Philosophy of Science, ed. Leplin, J., 261277. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Fodor, J. A. 1974. Special sciences (or: The disunity of science as a working hypothesis). Synthese 28: 97115.
Fodor, J. A. 1975. The Language of Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Geanakoplos, J. and Pearce, D.. 1989. Psychological games and sequential rationality. Games and Economic Behavior 1: 6079.
Gigerenzer, G., Todd, P. M. and Group, the ABC Research. 2000. Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Graham, G. 2010. Behaviorism. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), ed. Zalta, E. N.. URL: <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/behaviorism/>.
Gul, F. and Pesendorfer, W.. 2008. The case for mindless economics. In The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics, ed. Caplin, A. and Schotter, A., 339. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harré, R. 1970. The Principles of Scientific Thinking. London: Macmillan.
Harrison, G. W. 2008. Neuroeconomics: a critical reconsideration. Economics and Philosophy 24: 303344.
Harsanyi, J. C. 1955. Cardinal welfare, individualistic ethics, and interpersonal comparisons of utility. Journal of Political Economy 63: 309321.
Hausman, D. 1998. Problems with realism in economics. Economics and Philosophy 14: 185213.
Hausman, D. 2000. Revealed preference, belief, and game theory. Economics and Philosophy 16: 99115.
Hausman, D. 2008. Mindless or mindful economics: a methodological evaluation. In The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics, ed. Caplin, A. and Schotter, A., 125151. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hylton, P. 2007. Quine. Abingdon: Routledge.
Katz, J. J. 1964. Mentalism in linguistics. Language 40: 124137.
Köszegi, B. and Rabin, M.. 2007. Mistakes in choice-based welfare analysis. American Economic Review 97: 477481.
Langendoen, D. T. 1998. Bloomfield. In The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, ed. Wilson, R. A. and Keil, F. C., 9091. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lewis, D. 1983. Philosophical Papers Volume I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
List, C. 1999. Craig's theorem and the empirical underdetermination thesis reassessed. Disputatio 7: 2839.
List, C. 2003. Are interpersonal comparisons of utility indeterminate? Erkenntnis 58: 229260.
List, C. 2014. Free will, determinism, and the possibility of doing otherwise. Noûs 48: 156178.
List, C. and Menzies, P.. 2009. Non-reductive physicalism and the limits of the exclusion principle. Journal of Philosophy 106: 475502.
List, C. and Pettit, P.. 2011. Group Agency: The Possibility, Design, and Status of Corporate Agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
List, C. and Spiekermann, K.. 2013. Methodological individualism and holism in political science: a reconciliation. American Political Science Review 107: 629643.
Loewenstein, G. 2000. Emotions in economic theory and economic behavior. American Economic Review 90: 426432.
Mandler, M., Manzini, P. and Mariotti, M.. 2012. A million answers to twenty questions: choosing by checklist. Journal of Economic Theory 147: 7192.
Manzini, P. and Mariotti, M.. 2007. Sequentially rationalizable choice. American Economic Review 97: 18241839.
Manzini, P. and Mariotti, M.. 2012. Moody choice. Working paper, University of St Andrews.
Maxwell, G. 1962. On the ontological status of theoretical entities. In Scientific Explanation, Space, and Time; Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume III, ed. Feigl, H. and Maxwell, G., 327. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Mongin, P. 2011. La théorie de la décision et la psychologie du sens commun. Social Science Information 50: 351374.
Monton, B. and Mohler, C.. 2012. Constructive empiricism. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), ed. Zalta, E. N.. URL: <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/constructive-empiricism/>.
Moore, J. 2001. On distinguishing methodological from radical behaviorism. European Journal of Behavior Analysis 2: 221244.
Musgrave, A. 1989. NOA's Ark – fine for realism. Philosophical Quarterly 39: 383398.
Okasha, S.2016. On the interpretation of decision theory. Economics and Philosophy 32. doi: 10.1017/S0266267115000346.
Pettit, P. 1991. Decision theory and folk psychology. In Foundations of Decision Theory: Issues and Advances, ed. Bacharach, M. and Hurley, S., 147175. Oxford: Blackwell.
Pinker, S. 1994. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York, NY: William Morrow.
Psillos, S. 1999. Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth. Abingdon: Routledge.
Putnam, H. 1975. Philosophy and our mental life. In Mind, Language and Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Quine, W. V. 1948. On what there is. Review of Metaphysics 2: 2138.
Quine, W. V. 1960. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Quine, W. V. 1975. On empirically equivalent systems of the world. Erkenntnis 9: 313328.
Richter, M. K. 1966. Revealed preference theory. Econometrica 34: 635645.
Romer, P. M. 2000. Thinking and feeling. American Economic Review 90: 439443.
Samuelson, P. 1938. A note on the pure theory of consumer's behaviour. Economica (New Series) 5: 6171.
Sen, A. K. 1971. Choice functions and revealed preference. Review of Economic Studies 38: 307317.
Sen, A. K. 1977. Rational fools: a critique of the behavioral foundations of economic theory. Philosophy and Public Affairs 6: 317344.
Sen, A. K. 1993. Internal consistency of choice. Econometrica 61: 495521.
Shapere, D. 1982. The concept of observation in science and philosophy. Philosophy of Science 49: 485525.
Simon, H. A. 1956. Rational choice and the structure of the environment. Psychological Review 63: 129138.
Sober, E. 1999. The multiple realizability argument against reductionism. Philosophy of Science 66: 542564.
Suzumura, K. and Xu, Y.. 2001. Characterizations of consequentialism and nonconsequentialism. Journal of Economic Theory 101: 423436.
Tomasello, M. 1995. Language is not an instinct. Cognitive Development 10: 131156.
van Fraassen, B. C. 1980. The Scientific Image. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wakker, P. 2010. Prospect Theory: For Risk and Ambiguity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Weymark, J. A. 1991. A reconsideration of the Harsanyi–Sen debate on utilitarianism. In Interpersonal Comparisons of Well-being, ed. Elster, J. and Roemer, J. E., 255320. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Woodward, J. 2009. Scientific Explanation. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), ed. Zalta, E. N.. URL: <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2009/entries/scientific-explanation/>.

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed