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Reflection on rules in science: an invisible-hand perspective


  • Thomas Leonard


Can successful science accommodate a realistic view of scientific motivation? The Received View in theory of science has a theory of scientific success but no theory of scientific motivation. Critical Science Studies has a theory of scientific motivation but denies any prospect for (epistemologically meaningful) scientific success. Neither can answer the question because both regard the question as immaterial. Arguing from the premise that an adequate theory of science needs both a theory of scientific motivation, and a theory of scientific success, I make a case for seeing science as a kind of invisible-hand process. After distinguishing different and often confused conceptions of invisible-hand processes, I focus on scientific rules, treated as emergent responses to various coordination failures in the production and distribution of reliable knowledge. Scientific rules, and the means for their enforcement, constitute the invisible-hand mechanism, so that scientific rules (sometimes) induce interested scientific actors with worldly goals to make epistemically good choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Leonard, 2001. "Reflection on rules in science: an invisible-hand perspective," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 141-168.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:9:y:2001:i:2:p:141-168 DOI: 10.1080/13501780210137092

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Roger Backhouse & Mary Morgan, 2001. "Introduction: is data mining a methodological problem?," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 171-181.
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    Cited by:

    1. Viktor Vanberg, 2010. "The ‘science-as-market’ analogy: a constitutional economics perspective," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 28-49, March.
    2. Roger Koppl, 2011. "Against representative agent methodology," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 43-55, March.


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