IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/mar/magkse/201726.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Infinite Idealizations and Approximate Explanations in Economics

Author

Listed:
  • Max Albert

    () (University of Giessen)

  • Hartmut Kliemt

    () (University of Giessen)

Abstract

If we take it that, at least in the social sciences, “realistic” implies “finite”, then countless economic models involving infinitary assumptions must obviously be classified as unrealistic—for example, models with infinitely divisible goods, a continuum of traders, consumers optimizing over an infinite time horizon, or players optimizing over an infinite number of interactions. We argue that unrealistic models involving infinities can, in principle, supply explanations in economics. We develop a concept of approximate explanation based on the “method of decreasing abstraction”, that is, the practice of approximating complex situations through a sequence of increasingly realistic models. Our account of approximate explanation renders the testing view of economic science compatible with scientific realism. However, compatibility does not extend to the folk theorems for infinitely repeated games, which are used widely in applied economics (e.g., in industrial economics) and beyond (e.g., spontaneous emergence of social order). Explanations based on these theorems are rejected by our criterion.

Suggested Citation

  • Max Albert & Hartmut Kliemt, 2017. "Infinite Idealizations and Approximate Explanations in Economics," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201726, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  • Handle: RePEc:mar:magkse:201726
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.uni-marburg.de/fb02/makro/forschung/magkspapers/paper_2017/26_2017_albert.pdf
    File Function: First 201726
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Yew-Kwang Ng, 2016. "Are Unrealistic Assumptions/Simplifications Acceptable? Some Methodological Issues in Economics," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(2), pages 180-201, May.
    2. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    3. D. Arnold & F. Maier-Rigaud, 2012. "The Enduring Relevance of the Model Platonism Critique in Economics and Public Policy," Post-Print hal-00800713, HAL.
    4. Max Albert & Andreas Hildenbrand, 2016. "Industrial Organization and Experimental Economics: How to Learn from Laboratory Experiments," Homo Oeconomicus: Journal of Behavioral and Institutional Economics, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 135-156, August.
    5. Albert, Hans & Arnold, Darrell & Maier-Rigaud, Frank, 2012. "Model Platonism: Neoclassical economic thought in critical light," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 295-323, September.
    6. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 390-407, June.
    7. Arnold, Darrell & Maier-Rigaud, Frank P., 2012. "The enduring relevance of the model Platonism critique for economics and public policy," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 289-294, September.
    8. Arnold, Darrell & Maier-Rigaud, Frank P., 2012. "The enduring relevance of the model Platonism critique for economics and public policy – Addendum," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 325-325, September.
    9. Hal R. Varian, 1997. "How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 41(2), pages 3-10, October.
    10. Martin J. Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 1994. "A Course in Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650401, January.
    11. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521415019, August.
    12. Mailath, George J. & Samuelson, Larry, 2006. "Repeated Games and Reputations: Long-Run Relationships," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195300796.
    13. Ken Binmore, 1998. "Game Theory and the Social Contract - Vol. 2: Just Playing," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 2, number 0262024446, January.
    14. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    15. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521425230, August.
    16. Ken Binmore, 1994. "Game Theory and the Social Contract, Volume 1: Playing Fair," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262023636, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Approximate explanation; Folk theorems of game theory; Infinite idealizations; Method of decreasing abstraction; Methodology of economics; Unrealistic assumptions;

    JEL classification:

    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games

    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:mar:magkse:201726. 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: (Bernd Hayo). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/vamarde.html .

    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.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.