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IDEALIZATION AND THE AIMS OF ECONOMICS: THREE CHEERS FOR INSTRUMENTALISM

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2012

Julian Reiss
Affiliation:
Durham University, UKjulian.reiss@durham.ac.uk
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Abstract

This paper aims (a) to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and (b) to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that ‘all models are false’, which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as ‘partial’ or ‘approximate’. The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: (1) Once we have usefulness, truth is redundant. (2) There is something disturbing about causal structure. (3) It's better to do what one can than to chase rainbows.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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