IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Mathematics and Economics: Use, Misuse, or Abuse? From Walrasian Deductivism to Demaria's Hypothetical Inferences


  • Francesco Boldizzoni

    (Università Bocconi)

  • Arnaldo Canziani

    (Università di Brescia)


The development of a mechanistic analytical approach – since mid-19th century to WWI, and beyond – is a well-known story in European economic thought, the story of Cournot, Jevons, Walras, Edgeworth, Pareto, and many others. We could refer to this tradition as “mathematical deductivism”, i.e. the use of mathematics as a demonstrative tool, which implies plenty of axioms and theorems, generally connected to maximizing behaviours. But along the 20th century, both the diffusion of more sophisticated mathematics and ‘political’ circumstances – mainly the Keynesian claim to build workable theories – opened a new phase, the “mathematical descriptivism”: mathematics started to be used to give form to the economic matter, and to satisfy the simplest requirements of economic policy as well. Contrary to these vulgatae, a third use of mathematics could be anyway suggested, the approach based on “multiple indeterminations”. Within such a framework, economic dynamics is treated in more and more flexible ways by n degrees of freedom, so reflecting the stochastic complexity of the economic reality. To carry out this task, the paper goes through the work of three Italian pioneers of the 20th century (Demaria, Brambilla, De Finetti) analyzing the interactions between social exogenous variables and their endogenous effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Boldizzoni & Arnaldo Canziani, 2005. "Mathematics and Economics: Use, Misuse, or Abuse? From Walrasian Deductivism to Demaria's Hypothetical Inferences," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0504003, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmh:0504003
    Note: Type of Document - doc

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barnett William A. & He Yijun, 1999. "Stability Analysis of Continuous-Time Macroeconometric Systems," Studies in Nonlinear Dynamics & Econometrics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 1-22, January.
    2. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1985. "On Endogenous Competitive Business Cycles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(5), pages 995-1045, September.
    3. Bohm, Volker & Kaas, Leo, 2000. "Differential savings, factor shares, and endogenous growth cycles," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 24(5-7), pages 965-980, June.
    4. Bergstrom, A. R. & Nowman, K. B. & Wymer, C. R., 1992. "Gaussian estimation of a second order continuous time macroeconometric model of the UK," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 313-351, October.
    5. Bergstrom, A. R. & Nowman, K. B. & Wandasiewicz, S., 1994. "Monetary and fiscal policy in a second-order continuous time macroeconometric model of the United Kingdom," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(3-4), pages 731-761.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B23 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Econometrics; Quantitative and Mathematical Studies
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • C00 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General - - - General
    • C60 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:wpa:wuwpmh:0504003. 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: (EconWPA). General contact details of provider: .

    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.