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WHY ECONOMICS IS AN EVOLUTIONARY, MATHEMATICAL SCIENCE: HOW COULD VEBLEN’S VIEW OF ECONOMICS HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT THAN PEIRCE’S?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2021

James R. Wible*
Affiliation:
James R. Wible: Department of Economics, Paul College of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire.
*
Corresponding author. E-mail: Jim.Wible@unh.edu

Abstract

More than a century ago, one of the most famous essays ever written in American economics appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics: “Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science?” There, Thorstein Veblen claimed that economics was too dominated by a mechanistic view to address the problems of economic life. Since the world and the economy had come to be viewed from an evolutionary perspective after Charles Darwin, it was rather straightforward to argue that the increasingly abstract mathematical character of economics was non-evolutionary. However, Veblen had studied with a first-rate intellect, Charles Sanders Peirce, attending his elementary logic class. If Peirce had written about the future of economics in 1898, it would have been very different than Veblen’s essay. Peirce could have written that economics should become an evolutionary mathematical science and that much of classical and neoclassical economics could be interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the History of Economics Society

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Footnotes

I would like to thank Robert Dimand, Steve Meardon, Guy Numa, and Karen Conway for helpful comments.

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WHY ECONOMICS IS AN EVOLUTIONARY, MATHEMATICAL SCIENCE: HOW COULD VEBLEN’S VIEW OF ECONOMICS HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT THAN PEIRCE’S?
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