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Can Economics be Founded on 'Indisputable Facts of Experience'? Lionel Robbins and the Pioneers of Neoclassical Economics

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  • ROBERT SUGDEN

Abstract

Robbins argues that the fundamental propositions of microeconomic theory are deductions from the assumption that individuals act on consistent preferences; this 'indisputable fact of experience' does not need to be validated in controlled experiments. While recognising that some neoclassical pioneers based the theory on psychological hedonism, Robbins claims that his own approach of 'pure theory' belongs to a parallel and sounder tradition exemplified by Menger and Wicksteed. This paper argues that Robbins' methodological defence of pure theory is incoherent, and that his claim to find an intellectual lineage in the works of Menger and Wicksteed overlooks important discontinuities. Copyright (c) The London School of Economics and Political Science 2009.

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  • Robert Sugden, 2009. "Can Economics be Founded on 'Indisputable Facts of Experience'? Lionel Robbins and the Pioneers of Neoclassical Economics," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(s1), pages 857-872, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:76:y:2009:i:s1:p:857-872
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    1. Harro Maas, 2005. "Jevons, Mill And The Private Laboratory Of The Mind," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 73(5), pages 620-649, September.
    2. Rubinstein, Ariel, 2001. "A theorist's view of experiments," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 615-628, May.
    3. Luigino Bruni, 2002. "Vilfredo Pareto and the Birth of Modern Microeconomics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2238.
    4. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
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    Cited by:

    1. Avner Offer, 2012. "Self-interest, Sympathy and the Invisible Hand : From Adam Smith to Market Liberalism," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 1(2), pages 1-1, December.

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