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Economists' Odd Stand on the Positive-Normative Distinction: A Behavioral Economics View


  • Davis, John

    () (Department of Economics Marquette University)


This chapter examines economists' indefensible attachment to the positive-normative distinction, and suggests a behavioral economics explanation of their behavior on the subject. It reviews the origins of the distinction in Hume's guillotine and logical positivism, and shows how they form the basis for Robbins' understanding of value neutrality. It connects philosophers' rejection of logical positivism to their rejection of the positive-normative distinction, explains and modifies Putnam's view of fact-value entanglement, and identifies four main ethical value judgments that contemporary economists employ. The behavioral explanation of economists' denial of these value judgments emphasizes loss aversion and economists' social identity as economists.

Suggested Citation

  • Davis, John, 2013. "Economists' Odd Stand on the Positive-Normative Distinction: A Behavioral Economics View," Working Papers and Research 2013-02, Marquette University, Center for Global and Economic Studies and Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrq:wpaper:2013-02

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