History and Philosophy Of Science | History & Philosophy of Economics
X326 | 27884 | Jordi Cat


X326. Visible and Invisible Hands, Hearts and Minds. History and
Philosophy of Economics

Is the recession over? Why is healthcare an economic matter? Or oil spills? 
Why is money valuable? How does it make things valuable? Are you wealthy?
Can you buy the Moon? Can Goldman Sachs buy the Moon? Would you like
to work for Goldman Sachs? Can you sell your soul? Or your vote? Do
tax-cuts stimulate the economy? Do wars open free markets? Are black
markets free markets? Do free markets stimulate democracy? Or vice
versa? How many economists does it take to save the economy? Can
economists save the environment? Social, political, cultural and
economic developments in recent years have shown quite dramatically
how much we all are “the slaves of some defunct economist”, as
Keynes put it. Can any truth, or true enough view, make us free
enough to gain a better perspective on the issues that affect us? Is
there any truth about economics? Is there any truth in economics?
Can there be? How can economics be understood? What is the point of
economics? How is it constructed, argued and applied? Are its
applications predictions or prescriptions? What makes it a science?
Does it matter? How does it relate to other sciences? This course
introduces the student to historical and philosophical tools to
examine the science of economics.
Historical examination suggests that economic doctrines and their
applications have not developed in the vacuum, and established
themselves by fate and fiat. Historical figures and topics discussed
will include Aristotle and the distinction between economy and
crematistic, Pacioli and the aesthetic origins of bookkeeping,
William Petty and monarchic political economy of the wealth of a
nation, Adam Smith and his theory of the market between Newtonian
mechanics and theory of moral values, balance and equilibrium in
chemistry and physics, the Jewish stockbroker David Ricardo and the
beginning of economic wealth’s withdrawal from nature and its laws,
Mill’s and Marx’s Dickensian world and its laws of tendencies,
Jevons and Marshall’s Victorian mathematics and utility calculus,
German cameralism and Austrian decision-making theory and a priori
economics, Mises on the rationality of socialist calculation and
Hayek’s market as spontaneous order for efficient knowledge
communication, Pareto and economic calculation for efficient
welfare, Schmoller and historicism as political instrument, Neurath
and the problem of ecological economics, Keynes and the
equilibrating role of government, Friedman’s monetarism, Galbraith’s
institutionalism, etc.
Economic doctrines aim to study and direct the sorts of human
phenomena within groups that involve the designation, production and
distribution of valued stuff for the survival of the group and for
the improvement in the quality of life or well-being of its
individuals. But what counts as an individual’s well-being? How can
it be measured, compared or calculated? Why is economic value
quantitative? Is the accumulation of profit the chief economic goal?
What counts as economic behavior? What is the form of an economic
theory? What does it describe? Are there economic entities, forces
and causes? How are economic theories tested? Are economic failures
problems of design or of application? Is economics value-free? Are
there economic rights? What about fair prices? What kind of equality
does market capitalism promote? Are economic choices rational
choices by definition only? Is rationality in economics an intrinsic
good? Is the market rational? What is rationality anyway? Are
regulations necessary for economic success? Is capitalism the only
economic model? Is it good enough? Good for what? For whom? Is
global capitalism a problem? Are the limits of markets geographical,
intellectual, ethical, aesthetic?
This course will point the student to a variety of approaches to
economic systems, values and methods: from formal approaches such as
axiomatic systems and game-theoretic models, and positivist
approaches, to social approaches such as institutionalism and
socialism, to humanist approaches such as historical and fictional
narratives, normative capability-based models, hermeneutic readings,
and phenomenological accounts, to ecological approaches.