IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/hec/heccee/2014-3.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Reductionism in Economics: Causality and Intentionality in the Microfoundations of Macroeconomics

Author

Listed:
  • Kevin D. Hoover

Abstract

In many sciences – physical, but also biology, neuroscience, and other life sciences – one object of reductionism is to purge intentionality from the fundamental basis of both explanations and the explanatory target. The scientifically relevant level – ontologically and epistemologically – is thought to lie deeper than the level of ordinary human interactions. In the material and living world, the more familiar is the less fundamental. In contrast, the economic world of day-to-day life – the world of market interactions – appears to be the relevant level. Macroeconomics is thought to provide an account that is above, not below or behind, ordinary economic decisionmaking. An advantage of a macroeconomic account is that it is possible to employ causal analysis of the economy as a whole analogous to the causal analysis of physical systems. The fear of many economists is that such analyses are untethered to ordinary economic decisionmaking. The object of reductionism in economics – the so-called microfoundations of macroeconomics – is adequately to ground or replace higher level causal analysis with an analysis of the day-to-day interactions of people. The object is not to purge intentionality, but to reclaim it. The paper will attempt to understand the key issues surrounding the microfoundations of macroeconomics from a perspectival realist perspective that elucidates the relationship between economists’ methodological preference for microfoundations and need for macroeconomic analysis – that is, between economists’ respect for the intentional nature of economic life and the need for a causal analysis of the economy. The paper favors metaphysical humility and methodological pragmatism.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin D. Hoover, 2014. "Reductionism in Economics: Causality and Intentionality in the Microfoundations of Macroeconomics," Center for the History of Political Economy Working Paper Series 2014-3, Center for the History of Political Economy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hec:heccee:2014-3
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hope.econ.duke.edu/node/949
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    Keywords

    microfoundations of macroeconomics; reductionism; causation; intentionality; Lucas critique;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hec:heccee:2014-3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Center for the History of Political Economy Webmaster). General contact details of provider: http://hope.econ.duke.edu .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.