When Are Economic Explanations Persuasive? A View from Social Economics

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Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


From its inception, this association has been characterized by a concern that mainstream economic analysis, as valuable as it is, gives an incomplete perspective on our economic life. Explanation in mainstream economics combines the philosophies of Mill and Roscher from the nineteenth century and of Hayek and Mitchell from the twentieth. Orthodox economics relies on the same ground of explanation – the part – as did Mill and the classical economists. It uses modes of explanation from Roscher and Mill – both induction and deduction. And it works with the same canons of evidence – statistical data – as did Mitchell. The key point is that there are a series of choices involved. Contrary to popular opinion in the discipline, there is not one scientific method. Science involves choices among several philosophical positions. Like any scientist, the economist may be unconscious of the choices made, but social economists might prudently anticipate a growing awareness of orthodox economists of these matters due to changes in both the philosophy and the history of science.


This paper was presented as the Presidential Address, the Association for Social Economics, December 29, 1986, New Orleans, LA.

Author is listed in this article as “Daniel Rush Finn.”