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Rationality and Beyond: A Critique of the Nature and Task of Economics

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  • Li, Cheng

Abstract

This paper shows that the means-end rationality principle, as an ‘ultimate given’ of economics, delimits the faculty of economists to observe, describe and understand the manifold human behavior. Given such epistemological limitations, as a descriptive science, the main task of economics is to incorporate appropriate empirical content into the a priori analytical framework with the aim of better explaining and predicting some aspect of human behavior. As a normative science, economists should draw on their persuasion and communication skills whereby changing the means and end of the decision makers to the extent that the real world decision-making can be improved.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Cheng, 2014. "Rationality and Beyond: A Critique of the Nature and Task of Economics," MPRA Paper 56651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:56651
    as

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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/56651/1/MPRA_paper_56651.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759, December.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    3. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-955, December.
    4. Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211-211.
    5. von Hayek, Friedrich August, 1989. "The Pretence of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(6), pages 3-7, December.
    6. Boland, Lawrence A, 1981. "On the Futility of Criticizing the Neoclassical Maximization Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 1031-1036, December.
    7. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
    8. Heiner, Ronald A, 1983. "The Origin of Predictable Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 560-595, September.
    9. Roger E. Backhouse & Steve G. Medema, 2009. "Defining Economics: The Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(s1), pages 805-820, October.
    10. Irene van Staveren, 2012. "An Evolutionary Efficiency Alternative to the Notion of Pareto Efficiency," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-6, July.
    11. Daniel Kahneman & Jack L. Knetsch & Richard H. Thaler, 1991. "Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 193-206, Winter.
    12. Vriend, Nicolaas J., 1996. "Rational behavior and economic theory," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 263-285, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rationality; Constrained maximization model; Methodology; Epistemology;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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