Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Julian Reiss (a1)

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.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Atkinson and J. Peijnenburg 2004. Galileo and prior philosophy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 35: 115136.

A. Bokulich 2011. How scientific models can explain. Synthese 180 (1): 3345.

N. Cartwright 1979. Causal laws and effective strategies. Noûs 13: 419437.

N. Cartwright 1983. How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

N. Cartwright 2003. Two theorems on invariance and causality. Philosophy of Science 70: 203224.

A. Chakravartty 1998. Semirealism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 29:291408.

A. Chakravartty 2007. A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D. Colander , M. Goldberg , A. Haas , K. Juselius , A. Kirman , T. Lux and B. Sloth 2009. The financial crisis and the systemic failure of the economics profession. Critical Review 21: 249267.

M. Elgin and E. Sober 2002. Cartwright on explanation and idealization. Erkenntnis 57: 441450.

J. Elster 1989. Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

R. Giere 1988. Explaining Science: A Cognitive Approach. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

F. Guala 2005. The Methodology of Experimental Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

I. Hacking 1983. Representing and Intervening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D.W. Hands 2003. Did Milton Friedman's methodology license the formalist revolution. Journal of Economic Methodology 10: 507520.

J. Heckman and E. Vytlacil 2007. Econometric evaluation of social programs, part I: Causal models, structural models and econometric policy evaluation. In Handbook of Econometrics, ed. J. Heckman and E. Leamer . Amsterdam: North-Holland.

K. Hoover 1995. Is macroeconomics for real? Monist 78: 235257.

R.I.G. Hughes 1990. The Bohr atom, models, and realism. Philosophical Topics 18:7184.

J. Ladyman and D. Ross 2007. Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Neutralized. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

T. Lawson 1997. Economics and Reality. London: Routledge.

T. Lyons 2005. Toward a purely axiological scientific realism. Erkenntnis 63: 167204.

U. Mäki 2001. Explanatory unification: double and doubtful. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 31: 488506.

U. Mäki 2003. The Methodology of Positive Economics (1953) does not give us the methodology of positive economics. Journal of Economic Methodology 10: 495505.

U. Mäki 2005. Models are experiments, experiments are models. Journal of Economic Methodology 12: 303315.

U. Mäki 2005. Reglobalizing realism by going local, or (how) should formulations of scientific realism be informed about the sciences. Erkenntnis 63: 231251.

U. Mäki 2011 a. Models and the locus of their truth. Synthese 180: 4763.

U. Mäki 2011 b. Scientific realism as a challenge to economics (and vice versa). Journal of Economic Methodology 18: 112.

E. McMullin 1985. Galileian idealization. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 16: 247273.

M. Morgan and M. Morrison 1999. Models as Mediators. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

I. Niiniluoto 1987. Truthlikeliness. Dordrecht: Reidel.

I. Niiniluoto 2002. Truthlikeliness and economic theories. In Fact and Fiction in Economics: Models, Realism and Social Construction, ed. U. Mäki , 214228. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

A. Pérez-Ramos 1996. Bacon's forms and the maker's knowledge. In The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, M. Peltonen , 99120. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

J. Reiss 2012. The explanation paradox. Journal of Economic Methodology 19: 4362.

D.-H. Ruben 1990. Explaining Explanation. London: Routledge.

B van Fraassen . 1980. The Scientific Image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

T. Weston 1992. Approximate truth and scientific realism. Philosophy of Science 59: 5374.

J. Worrall 1989. Structural realism: the best of both worlds? Dialectica 43: 99124.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
  • URL: /core/journals/economics-and-philosophy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 50 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 136 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.