The Moral Limits of Markets: The Case of Human Kidneys

Abstract: This paper examines the morality of kidney markets through the lens of choice, inequality, and weak agency looking at the case for limiting such markets under both non-ideal and ideal circumstances. Regulating markets can go some way to addressing the problems of inequality and weak agency. The choice issue is different and this paper shows that the choice for some to sell their kidneys can have external effects on those who do not want to do so, constraining the options that are now open to them. I believe that this is the strongest argument against such markets.

Philosophy of Social Science. A New Introduction

Publisher’s Note: This is a much-needed new introduction to a field that has been transformed in recent years by exciting new subjects, ideas, and methods. It is designed for students in both philosophy and the social sciences. Topics include ontology, objectivity, method, measurement, and causal inference, and such issues as well-being and climate change.

The Superiority of Economics

Abstract: In this essay, we investigate the dominant position of economics within the network of the social sciences in the United States. We begin by documenting the relative insularity of economics, using bibliometric data. Next, we analyze the tight management of the field from the top down, which gives economics its characteristic hierarchical structure. Economists also distinguish themselves from other social scientists through their much better material situation (many teach in business schools, have external consulting activities), their more individualist worldviews, and in the confidence, they have in their discipline’s ability to fix the world’s problems. Taken together, these traits constitute what we call the superiority of economists, where economists’ objective supremacy is intimately linked with their subjective sense of authority and entitlement. While this superiority has certainly fueled economists’ practical involvement and their considerable influence over the economy, it has also exposed them more to conflicts of interests, political critique, even derision.

The curious case of the prisoner’s dilemma: model situation? Exemplary narrative?”

Abstract: The Prisoner’s Dilemma game is one of the classic games discussed in game theory,  the  study  of  strategic  decision  making  in  situations  of conflict,  which  stretches  between  mathematics  and  the  social  sciences. Game theory was  primarily developed  during  the  late  1940s  and  into  the  1960s  at  a number of research sites funded by various arms of the U.S. military establishment as part of their Cold War research.

Ethical Assumptions in Economic Theory: Some Lessons from the History of Credit and Bankruptcy

Abstract: This paper evaluates the economic assumptions of economic theory via an examination of the capitalist transformation of creditor-debtor relations in the 18th century. This transformation enabled masses of people to obtain credit without moral opprobrium or social subordination. Classical 18th century economics had the ethical concepts to appreciate these facts. Ironically, contemporary economic theory cannot. I trace this fault to its abstract representations of freedom, efficiency, and markets. The virtues of capitalism lie in the concrete social relations and social meanings through which capital and commodities are exchanged. Contrary to laissez faire capitalism, the conditions for sustaining these concrete capitalist formations require limits on freedom of contract and the scope of private property rights.

Do Collaborators in Science Need to Agree?

Abstract: I argue that collaborators do not need to reach broad agreement over the justification of a consensus claim. This is because maintaining a diversity of justifiers within a scientific collaboration has important epistemic value. I develop a view of collective justification that depends on the diversity of epistemic perspectives present in a group. I argue that a group can be collectively justified in asserting that P as long as the disagreement among collaborators over the reasons for P is itself justified. In conclusion, I make a case for multimethod collaborative research and work through an example in the social sciences.

A Unificationist Defense of Revealed Preferences

Abstract: Revealed preference approaches to modelling agents’ choices face two seemingly devastating explanatory objections. The no self-explanation objection imputes a problematic explanatory circularity to revealed preference approaches, while the causal explanation objection argues that, all things equal, a scientific theory should provide causal explanations, but revealed preference approaches decidedly do not. Both objections assume a view of explanation, the constraint-based view, that the revealed preference theorist ought to reject. Instead, the revealed preference theorist should adopt a unificationist account of explanation, allowing her to escape the two explanatory problems discussed in this paper.

The Scientist qua Policy Advisor Makes Value Judgments

Richard Rudner famously argues that the communication of scientific advice to policy makers involves ethical value judgments. His argument has, however, been rightly criticized. This article revives Rudner’s conclusion, by strengthening both his lines of argument: we generalize his initial assumption regarding the form in which scientists must communicate their results and complete his ‘backup’ argument by appealing to the difference between private and public decisions. Our conclusion that science advisors must, for deep-seated pragmatic reasons, make value judgments is further bolstered by reflections on how the scientific contribution to policy is far less straightforward than the Rudner-style model suggests.

Field Experiments in Development Economics

Abstract: There is a long tradition in development economics of collecting original data to test specific hypotheses. Over the last 10 years, this tradition has merged with an expertise in setting up randomized field experiments, resulting in an increasingly large number of studies where an original experiment has been set up to test economic theories and hypotheses. This paper extracts some substantive and methodological lessons from such studies in three domains: incentives, social learning, and time-inconsistent preferences. The paper argues that we need both to continue testing existing theories and to start thinking of how the theories may be adapted to make sense of the field experiment results, many of which are starting to challenge them. This new framework could then guide a new round of experiments.

Hypothetical models in social science: their features and uses

Abstract: The chapter addresses the philosophical issues raised by the use of hypothetical modeling in the social sciences. Hypothetical modeling involves the construction and analysis of simple hypothetical systems to represent complex social phenomena for the purpose of understanding those social phenomena.

To highlight its main features hypothetical modeling is compared both to laboratory experimentation and to computer simulation. In analogy with laboratory experiments, hypothetical models can be conceived of as scientific representations that attempt to isolate, theoretically, the working of causal mechanisms or capacities from disturbing factors. However, unlike experiments, hypothetical models need to deal with the epistemic uncertainty due to the inevitable presence of unrealistic assumptions introduced for purposes of analytical tractability. Computer simulations have been claimed to be able to overcome some of the strictures of analytical tractability. Still they differ from hypothetical models in how they derive conclusions and in the kind of understanding they provide.

The inevitable presence of unrealistic assumptions makes the legitimacy of the use of hypothetical modeling to learn about the world a particularly pressing problem in the social sciences. A review of the contemporary philosophical debate shows that there is still little agreement on what social scientific models are and what they are for. This suggests that there might not be a single answer to the question of what is the epistemic value of hypothetical models in the social sciences.