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Alexandrova, Anna, , Robert Northcott. It’s just a feeling: why economic models do not explain
2013, Journal of Economic Methodology, 20(3), 262-267
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise – that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.

Comment: This is a good short article to read alongside Reiss' important paper on the explanation paradox, in the context of a philosophy of economics or social science class. It argues against Reiss' premise that economic models are explanatory. It draws on, but does not require, knowledge of anyone's positions in the larger debate on the status of formal models.

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Anderson, Elizabeth, , . Ethical Assumptions in Economic Theory: Some Lessons from the History of Credit and Bankruptcy
2004, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7.4, 347-360
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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.

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Basso, Alessandra, Lisciandra, Chiara, Marchionni, Caterina. Hypothetical models in social science: their features and uses
2017, Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. Magnani, L. & Bertolotti, T. (eds.). Springer, 413-433
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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.

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Bicchieri, Cristina, , . The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms
2006, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Jurgis Karpus

Publisher’s Note: In The Grammar of Society, first published in 2006, Cristina Bicchieri examines social norms, such as fairness, cooperation, and reciprocity, in an effort to understand their nature and dynamics, the expectations that they generate, and how they evolve and change. Drawing on several intellectual traditions and methods, including those of social psychology, experimental economics and evolutionary game theory, Bicchieri provides an integrated account of how social norms emerge, why and when we follow them, and the situations where we are most likely to focus on relevant norms. Examining the existence and survival of inefficient norms, she demonstrates how norms evolve in ways that depend upon the psychological dispositions of the individual and how such dispositions may impair social efficiency. By contrast, she also shows how certain psychological propensities may naturally lead individuals to evolve fairness norms that closely resemble those we follow in most modern societies.

Comment: Extracts from Bicchieri's book can be read in a course that covers game theory and social norms. Bicchieri's book is famous and highly praised for its contribution to our understanding of how social norms form and influence our choice behaviour in day-to-day social interactions. Christina Bicchieri has recently also co-authored a revised version of the entry 'social norms' in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP).

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Duflo, Esther, , . Field Experiments in Development Economics
2006, Advances in Economics and Econometrics: Theory and Applications, Ninth World Congress (Econometric Society Monographs), R. Blundell, W. Newey, & T. Persson (eds.), 322-348
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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.

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Fourcade, Marion, Ollion, Etienne, Algan, Yann. The Superiority of Economics
2015, Journal of economic perspectives 29.1, 89-114
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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.

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Morgan, Mary S., , . The curious case of the prisoner’s dilemma: model situation? Exemplary narrative?”
2007, Science Without Laws: Model Systems, Cases, Exemplary Narratives. Science and cultural theory, ed. by Creager, Angela N. H., Lunbeck, Elizabeth, Norton Wise, M., Duke University Press, Durham, 157-185
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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.

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Nelson, Julie, , . Feminism and economics
1995, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(2), 131-148.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Introduction: An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education of June 30, 1993, reported, “Two decades after it began redefining debates” in many other disciplines, “feminist thinking seems suddenly to have arrived in economics.” Many economists, of course, did not happen to be in the station when this train arrived, belated as it might be. Many who might have heard rumor of its coming have not yet learned just what arguments are involved or what it promises for the refinement of the profession. The purpose of this essay is to provide a low-cost way of gaining some familiarity.

Comment: This text provides a good overview, as well as an argument regarding how the field of economics reflects masculine values, and how the field could be improved by removing this bias. It makes sense to read the text with students who have some familiarity with economics itself. It should be noted that the field of economics actually has changed in some of the ways the author recommends, since the time of publication, but the article is still relevant and provokes plenty of discussion.

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Satz, Debra, , . The Moral Limits of Markets: The Case of Human Kidneys
2008, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108, 269-288
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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.

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Vredenburg, Kate, , . A Unificationist Defense of Revealed Preferences
2019, Economics & Philosophy 36.1, 149-169
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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.

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