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Human Economists and Abstract Methodology

  • Ralph W Bailey

Many economists, and even methodologists, believe that the very abstractness of abstract methodology (AM) betrays it into either authoritarianism or vapidity. But though AM can certainly suffer from these defects, abstractness is not the cause of them. The root problems, arising from AMs justificationist history, are its impersonalism, its assumption that the logic of research is Aristotelian, and its stress on the distracting empiricist distinction between observation and on observation. Perhaps, then, AM can be revived in a form which attends to individual researchers and their actual use of logic, and applies to all branches of research. A revived normative AM, attempting to foster logical progress, would consider the situation of the individual researcher, learning from the approach to ethics called virtue theory as it did so. Methodologists of economics, despite considerable agreement about the deficiencies of modern economic research, have proved impotent to correct them. They should switch some of their attention from research outputs towards individual researchers and their progress; and to developing research utopias in which progressive researchers, and hence research, might flourish.

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Article provided by Economic Issues in its journal Economic Issues.

Volume (Year): 17 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 49-75

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Handle: RePEc:eis:articl:112bailey
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  1. Paula E. Stephan, 1996. "The Economics of Science," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(3), pages 1199-1235, September.
  2. Becker, Gary S, 1993. "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 385-409, June.
  3. Dow, Sheila, 2002. "Economic Methodology: An Inquiry," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198776123, March.
  4. Sugden, Robert, 1991. "Rational Choice: A Survey of Contributions from Economics and Philosophy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 751-85, July.
  5. Weintraub, E Roy, 1989. " Methodology Doesn't Matter, but the History of Thought Might," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 91(2), pages 477-93.
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