Philosophy and a Scientific Future of the History of Economics

14 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2006

Date Written: July 8, 2006


I argue that economists have reasons internal to the way that evidence works in the sciences to re-discover the importance of the history of their own discipline. For it is a constitutive element of science - here conceived as an ongoing research practice (as opposed to as an explanatory activity) - that evidence is never discarded forever and is thus historical in nature. Moreover, while drawing on the history of economics and the history of physics, I argue that the history of a discipline can be a source of important evidence in ongoing inquiry. Along the way, I attack a too rigorous distinction between the history of economics and economic history. I distinguish my approach from two closely related positions that emphasize learning from the past for scientific purposes. In my conclusion, I argue that that if economics departments continue to discard the history of economics (and economic history), one of its natural homes is in (history of) philosophy departments, where it can be nurtured among many other theoretical enterprises potentially relevant to the sciences.

Keywords: History of economics, Economic History, Philosophy, Physics

JEL Classification: A11, A12, B00, B41, C80, N01

Suggested Citation

Schliesser, Eric S., Philosophy and a Scientific Future of the History of Economics (July 8, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Eric S. Schliesser (Contact Author)

Ghent University ( email )

Philosophy and Moral Sciences
Blandijnberg 2
Ghent, 9000

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