Where Economics and Philosophy Meet
Economic Journal, Vol. 116, pp. F306-F325, June 2006
20 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2010
Date Written: 2006
Although Adam Smith’s 1776 Wealth of Nations is often cited as marking the birth of economics, it was really not until after the second world war that economics became the distinctive, more or less uniﬁed, and largely separate discipline summarised in the textbooks of today. Even a mere ﬁfty years ago, it was possible for the intelligent reader to move with relative ease between economics on the one hand and political economy, sociology and social theory, psychology and philosophy on the other. This is now no longer the case, and most young economists are taught to think of their discipline, not primarily in terms of the particular economic social phenomena it was once taken to be about, but as a sophisticated and largely self-contained analytical approach to the investigation of social phenomena of any kind. Even so, economics has never been able to separate itself entirely from its sister disciplines, even at the high tide of mathematical economics and positivism during the 1970s and 1980s, and many of the most active new areas in economics currently involve some form of boundary crossing (e.g. experimental economics, neuroeconomics and computational economics to name just three). With respect to the philosophy of economics in particular, the last ﬁfty years or so have seen a steady expansion in scholarly investigation into different connections between economics and philosophy, with the emergence of new journals, professional associations, research networks and the like. There has been a great deal of work on epistemological questions in the wake of the decline of positivism, on boundary issues and the question of whether or not economics constitutes a science, and on the rhetoric of economics, ethics, value and, latterly, the ontology of economics (Hands, 2001). It is against this background that, in 2004, three of us published the Elgar Companion to Economics and Philosophy (Davis, Marciano and Runde, 2004, henceforth the Companion), an edited collection aimed at documenting the current state of play in three important areas of the philosophy of economics:
(1) Political economy as political philosophy; (2) The methodology and epistemology of economics; and (3) Social ontology and the ontology of economics.
JEL Classification: B53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation