Volume XII Issue 2

Spring 2019

1. Economic experiments versus physical science experiments: an ontology-based approach

María Caamaño-Alegre ; José Caamaño-Alegre.
This article applies an ontology-based approach to economic experiments, emphasizing their differences with respect to physical science experiments. To contextualize our discussion, a conciliatory Weberian view of the similarities and differences between natural and social sciences is provided. After that, some ontological features of the social sciences' domain are highlighted, together with their problematic effect on experimental economics. Specifically, we focus on human beings' representational capacities and intentionality, their cultural and conventionally mediated forms of social interaction, and the holistic openness, instability and uncertainty of the social world. Finally, we emphasize the severe under-determination of theory by evidence affecting social science, as well as the related problems of empirical ambiguity, confirmatory biases and propensity to pseudoscientific practices in experimental economics.
Section: Articles

2. Friedman's instrumentalism in F53. A Weberian reading

Peter Galbács.
In this paper, Weber’s methodology of ideal types is applied as a framework to argue for the instrumentalist interpretation of Friedman’s methodology of positive economics. Weber’s ideal-typical methodology is characterized as a mix of descriptive inaccuracy and causal adequacy. Based on some recent structuralist results in the philosophy of science it is highlighted how intimately causal understanding and the properties of entities are related. The main contrast between Weber and Friedman consists in the emphases they placed on the causal properties of agents. It is argued that Friedman’s instrumentalism results from his neglect of entity properties for no causal understanding can be placed upon neglected characteristics. By identifying some channels through which methodological Weberianism could spread, the possibility of a real albeit indirect connection between Weber and Friedman is suggested, with Frank H. Knight as the most probable diffuser.
Section: Articles

3. On Amartya Sen's concept of sympathy

Mark Peacock.
This paper examines Amartya Sen's concept of sympathy and the oversimplified, ambiguous and sometimes erroneous interpretations of this concept by Sen's interpreters. In the first section, two types of sympathy can be found in Sen's 'Rational fools' essay-a contemplative and an active type of which the former has conceptual primacy. Following this, active sympathy is examined to ascertain what Sen means by 'actions based on sympathy' and why he deems these to be 'egoistic'. Sen's understanding of egoism means that sympathy is not straightforwardly assimilable to the orthodox theory of rational choice. The section after that analyses the place of altruism in Sen's work and ascertains that altruism can be aligned both with sympathy and commitment, depending on the definition one uses. The final section compares sympathy and commitment and establishes that they are to be distinguished, not according to the welfare a person expects to obtain from making choices, but according to the reason which motivates that person to make a choice.
Section: Articles

4. The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. Ethics, jurisprudence and political economy throughout the intellectual history of Adam Smith

Pilar Piqué.
This paper aims to address two research questions that have not been sufficiently examined by specialized studies of the intellectual history of Adam Smith. The first question asks why Smith, after developing his theory of sympathy in the first editions of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, started working on a theory of jurisprudence and ended up writing The Wealth of Nations. The second question asks why Smith, after writing and republishing The Wealth of Nations, asserted that he could not complete his theory of jurisprudence and incorporated a new part dedicated to virtue ethics in the last edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1790. The paper shows that: 1) after developing his theory of sympathy in the first edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith stated that a theory of jurisprudence was necessary to form rules of justice that guarantee social order, and in the search for that theory he ended up writing The Wealth of Nations; 2) in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith was devoted to studying the development of commerce in modern society and the conduct of the mercantile individual who pursued his own interest, and was incapable of elaborating on those general principles of justice that would ensure social harmony. Smith then delved into virtue ethics in order to recommend virtuous conduct that encourages mercantile individuals to become good citizens. The paper concludes by contending that economics would benefit from a better understanding of the […]
Section: Articles

5. Morality and value neutrality in economics: a dualist view

Cheng Li.
This paper proposes a dualist view that economics exhibits the properties of both moral science and value-neutral approach, regardless of the normative-positive distinction. Our argumentation is derived from the understanding that, analytically, economics is a broadly-defined rational choice theory. As implied by this claim, on the one hand, economics behaves as a moral science for two main reasons: all economic theories and policy discussions are necessarily based on moral premises about means-end considerations; economics as an analytical approach can be and has been applied to explanations of a wide range of moral phenomena. On the other hand, since economists — without being informed of some ethical presuppositions of higher order — cannot deal with the comparisons among different value criteria, their approach remains neutral regarding judgmental positions, which should be given a priori to make economic enquiries possible. Ultimately, by this view we reconcile morality with value neutrality in economics, without slicing the discipline into two distinctive branches.
Section: Articles

6. Review of Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis, edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz, Edward Elgar Publishing, Northhampton, MA, 2018, 3 volumes, 1919 pp, Paperback, ISBN 978-1-78536-131-9

Gabriel Mursa ; Andreea Iacobuţă.
Section: Book reviews

7. Review of Colin White, A History of the Global Economy. The Inevitable Accident, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018, hb, ix+495 pages, ISBN 978-1-78897-197-3

George Şerban-Oprescu.
Section: Book reviews

8. Review of Venkat Venkatasubramanian, How Much Inequality is Fair? Mathematical Principles of a Moral, Optimal, and Stable Capitalist Society, New York, Columbia University Press, 2017, xxi+279 pp., hb, ISBN 978-0-231-18072-6

Valentin Cojanu.
Section: Book reviews