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Theoria. Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia

Volume 13, Issue 2, Mayo 1998

Uskali Mäki
Pages 301-319

Aspects of Realism about Economics

A few aspects of the issue of realism are addressed in the context of a social science. The paper looks for adjustments needed in our conceptions of scientiflc realism to accommodate some peculiarities of economics. Ontologically speaking, economics appears to be closely linked to commonsense conceptions of the world, thus the problem of theoretical concepts does not emerge in the same form it is often taken to exist in physics. Theory formation is largely a matter of idealization and isolation among observables rather than postulation of unobservables. Given that isolative theories violate the truth in many ways, truth is more of a problem than existence in a realism pertaining to economics. The idea of significant truth -which is able to tolerare varieties of untruths in theories- is suggested to be based on the notion of the way the world works; this is a matter of the causal structure and functioning of the world. None of this is undermined by the acknowledgement that economist’s attittudes and decisions are shapped by rhetorical persuasion.

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