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Samuels on Methodological Pluralism in Economics

John B. Davis

Marquette University; University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

February 29, 2012

Warren Samuels was an influential proponent of methodological pluralism in economics. This short paper discusses his understanding of methodological pluralism, and argues that it is based on three distinct components: (1) his critique of the idea that theories have epistemic foundations and his ‘matrix approach to meaningfulness,’ (2) his belief that the absence of meta-principles for science combined with our human psychology create an existential dilemma for theorists and policy-makers, and (3) his understanding of relativism, social constructivism, and ‘limited but affirmative’ defense of nihilism against the charge of skepticism. The paper closes with a brief discussion of what Samuels’ methodological pluralism might tell us about historiography and the history of economics.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Samuels, methodological pluralism, economic methodology, economics profession

JEL Classification: B23, B31, B41

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Date posted: February 29, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Davis, John B., Samuels on Methodological Pluralism in Economics (February 29, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2013585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2013585

Contact Information

John B. Davis (Contact Author)
Marquette University ( email )
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
United States
University of Amsterdam ( email )
Tinbergen Institute ( email )
Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
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