From Edgeworth to Econophysics: A Methodological Perspective
Although most of the marginalist economists’ methodology was influenced by 19th century classical physics, the work of second generation marginalist Francis Ysidro Edgeworth represents the highest point of classical physics influence to the development of mainstream economic methodology. Edgeworth’s close parallelism between celestial and social mechanics expressed in his analogies between utility and energy and the principle of utility maximization to maximum energy, are important indications of the physics scientific ideal for economics. Subsequent leading theorists were not as explicit, although economic theory continued to be influenced by physics scientific ideal as the work of Pareto, Fisher and Samuelson indicates. However, the physics methodological framework has made a recent reappearance in the relatively new field of econophysics. Although there are methodological similarities, there are also important differences between mainstream economics and econophysics. Econophysicists’ emphasis to statistical mechanics rather to mechanical models, their reservations towards rational agent theory and their rejection of many standard assumptions of mainstream economics, are examples of such differences. This might also explain the resistance of mainstream economic theorists to incorporate econophysics into economics. The paper examines the above from a methodological viewpoint. It also discusses the possible reasons for this historical development and its implications for economic methodology.
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