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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2016

Franz Dietrich
Affiliation:
Paris School of Economics & CNRS, CES-Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne, Maison des Sciences Economiques, 106-112 Boulevard de l’Hôpital, 75647 Paris cedex 13, France; URL: .
Christian List
Affiliation:
London School of Economics, Departments of Government and Philosophy, London WC2A 2AE, UK; URL: .

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.

Type
Symposium on Rational Choice and Philosophy
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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