Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors
Randall Harp, Ph.D.
Don Loeb, Ph.D.
Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh, Ph.D.
philosophy of science, philosophy of economics, neoclassical economics, Marxist economics, economic methodology, Larry Laudan
In this paper, I argue that existing models in the philosophy of science, specifically the hierarchical model of scientific rationality and Larry Laudan's reticulated model of scientific rationality, provide a highly effective toolset for understanding debates in economics which hinge on underlying philosophical principles. To demonstrate this, I give an example of explicating a debate between neoclassical and Marxian economics using the hierarchical and reticulated models. I then argue that despite this potential for successful application, models in the philosophy of science as they currently exist do not contain the mechanisms necessary for making prescriptive claims about these economic debates due to the occurrence of what I call the Direction of Justification Problem. The direction of justification problem occurs when our philosophical prescriptions about economics contradict the actual practices of economists, but it is unclear whether this ought to serve as evidence against the soundness of our philosophical prescriptions or as an indictment of the economists who violate them. I then survey three major views in the philosophy of economics and argue that all three of them suffer from the direction of justification problem. Finally, I develop a method for solving the direction of justification problem and argue that future work in the philosophy of economics ought to consider this method going forward.
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O'Brien, Liam, "The Direction of Justification Problem: Understanding the Strengths and Shortcomings of Philosophies of Economics" (2021). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 424.