Volume IV Issue 2

Spring 2011


1. Are egalitarians really vulnerable to the Levelling-Down Objection and the Divided World Example?

S Subramanian.
This essay is a quick critique of one aspect of Derek Parfit's criticism of Egalitarianism in his larger consideration of the claims of, and distinction between, Prioritarianism and Egalitarianism. It reviews issues relating to the 'Levelling Down Objection' and the 'Divided World Example'. More specifically, it is argued that the Levelling Down Objection is a serious problem only for Pure Telic Egalitarianism, not for Pluralist Telic Egalitarianism; and that even in a Divided World, one can have an egalitarian justification for preferring an equal distribution of a smaller sum of wellbeing to an unequal distribution of a larger sum. By these means, it is contended that Parfit's claim of the vulnerability of Egalitarianism to the Levelling Down Objection and the Divided World Example is not sustainable.

2. The capacity to choose: reformulating the concept of choice in economic theory

Mark Peacock.
Despite being conceived as a 'theory of rational choice', orthodox economics fails to ascribe to human beings the ability to choose in a meaningful sense, something philosophical approaches to economics have long noted and tried to remedy. Tony Lawson's critical realism is one attempt at a remedy. If, following Lawson, one conceives of choice as a 'capacity' of human beings, critical realist analysis suggests a distinction between humans' possession and their exercise of this capacity. If one can sustain this distinction, one should be able to distinguish cases in which agents actually exercise their capacity to choose from those in which they do not. Investigation of this distinction does not, however, lead to the desired distinction between such cases. Consequently, a reformulation of the notion of choice is required. An implication for economic theory - namely, the possibility of conceptualizing 'exploitation' - is discussed.

3. Critical Realism versus Social Constructivism in International Relations

Roxana Bobulescu.
This article discusses the methodological differences between the British school and the American school of international relations. It attempts to demonstrate that Susan Strange, representative of the British school, could be considered a critical realist. The aim of the article is to show that her vision of international political economy fulfills the methodological reorientation initiated in economics by Tony Lawson at the end of the 90s. Strange's radical ontology claims that structural power determines human actions. The paper contrasts Strange's approach with that of John Ruggie, from the American school, who identifies himself as a social constructivist. Ruggie emphasizes the role of ideational factors in international relations and the constructed nature of social reality.

4. More than a sum of its parts: A Keynesian epistemology of statistics

Nicholas Werle.
The major theoretical insight of Keynes' General Theory is that aggregate quantities describing the state of an economy as a whole are irreducible to arithmetic summations of individual decisions. This breaks with the logic of classical political economy and establishes macroeconomics as the study of economy-wide dynamics, logically independent from any underlying theory of individual rationality. However, Keynes does have a theory of individual psychology that links expectations back up to aggregate quantities with robust statistical methods, which account for the fundamental uncertainty one faces in predicting the future. By comparing the theoretical structure of macroeconomics to that of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, this essay proposes a novel reading of Keynes' epistemology of statistical laws. On this view, statistical methods allow theoreticians to connect the mechanics of vast numbers of micro-scale entities to a macroscale dynamics, even in the absence of a fully determinate causal story. Keynes' belief that organic wholes emerge from the interactions of complex systems is a product of his early work on the development of statistical mechanics from kinetic theory. In light of this epistemological foundation, this essay shows how the neoclassical idea of supplying macroeconomics with microfoundations is inherently contradictory.

5. There are no such things as ‘commodities’: a research note

Rupert Read.
This short paper is a note offering provisional results of my current research in philosophical economics and the philosophy of economics. It is offered in the spirit of promoting discussion of an interesting topic worthy of further investigation.