Three Frank Questions to Discipline Your Theorizing
Daniel B. Klein
George Mason University - Department of Economics
April 28, 2013
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 12-44
Social science fledglings can improve their theorizing by focusing on three questions: Theory of what?, Why should we care?, and What merit in your explanation? This suite of questions takes the spine of theory to be explanation. Explanation has a counterpart in the thing to be explained, the explanandum. The three questions have been deployed in criticizing the tendency in economics to pass off mere model-building as theorizing. I summarize that deployment and then offer the three questions as means to discipline one’s theorizing. Adam Smith helps us see the theorizer as something of an artist. The questions help us appreciate a work by James Coleman and Thomas Hoffer. I also use a coauthored work of my own to explore the questions and relate them to creativity in theorizing (“abduction”).
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: theory, theorizing, explanation, explanandum, understanding
JEL Classification: B40, B49, Y8
Date posted: September 30, 2012 ; Last revised: April 29, 2013
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