Epistemic virtues and concept formation in economics
The aim of this Thesis is to defend the following two main claims: (a) A "Baconian" science of economics is desirable and possible; (b) Two of Bacon's central insights are of particular relevance for modern economics: the importance of concept formation as a part of the scientific endeavour and the collaboration of theory construction and measurement. Chapter 1 introduces the topic by way of juxtaposing and contrasting Francis Bacon's scientific method with Gustav Schmoller's philosophy of economics and showing that they share a number of crucial aspects, which are significant for modern methodological debates. It is argued that the three epistemic virtues of phenomenal adequacy, explanatory power and exactness are as relevant for contemporary economics as they were for Schmoller and Bacon. Chapters 2-4 critically examine various strands in the contemporary economic literature. It is claimed that methods of concept formation dominant in this literature can allow us to obtain either of the three virtues severally but not all three simultaneously. In response to this criticism, Chapter 5 develops an alternative method of economic concept formation. In particular, the idea of Natural Economic Quantities (NEQs) is introduced. Essentially, an economic quantity is natural if and only if it figures in a tested causal model and it is measurable in the appropriate way. NEQs are supposed to help in building models which achieve the three epistemic virtues simultaneously, and thus allow economics to be a "Baconian" science. The theory of NEQs and its ability to help in realising all three epistemic virtues is illustrated with a case study from William Stanley Jevons's work on index numbers.