Skip to main content


  • Carl F. Craver (a1) and Anna Alexandrova (a2)

We argue that neuroeconomics should be a mechanistic science. We defend this view as preferable both to a revolutionary perspective, according to which classical economics is eliminated in favour of neuroeconomics, and to a classical economic perspective, according to which economics is insulated from facts about psychology and neuroscience. We argue that, like other mechanistic sciences, neuroeconomics will earn its keep to the extent that it either reconfigures how economists think about decision-making or how neuroscientists think about brain mechanisms underlying behaviour. We discuss some ways that the search for mechanisms can bring about such top-down and bottom-up revision, and we consider some examples from the recent neuroeconomics literature of how varieties of progress of this sort might be achieved.

Hide All
Angner E. and Loewenstein G.. Forthcoming. Behavioral economics. In Philosophy of economics, ed. Mäki U.. Vol. 13 of Handbook of the philosophy of science, ed. Gabbay D., Thagard P. and Woods J.. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Alexandrova A. Forthcoming. Making models count. Philosophy of Science.
Bechtel W. 1986. The nature of cross-disciplinary research. In Integrating scientific disciplines, ed. Bechtel W., 352. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.
Bechtel W. 1988. Philosophy of science: An overview for cognitive science. Hillsdale: NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Bechtel W. 2008. Mental mechanisms. Routledge.
Bechtel W. and Richardson R. C.. 1993. Discovering complexity: Decomposition and localization as strategies in scientific research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bickle J. 2003. Philosophy and neuroscience: A ruthlessly reductive account. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Binmore K. 2007. Playing for real. A text on game theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bromberger S. 1966. Why-Questions. In Readings in the philosophy of science, ed. Brody B. A., 6684. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bunge M. 1997. Mechanism and explanation. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 27: 410–65.
Camerer C., Loewenstein G. and Prelec D.. 2005. Neuroeconomics: how neuroscience can inform economics. Journal of Economic Literature XLII: 964.
Clark A. 1997. Being there: Putting mind, body, and world back together again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Craver C. F. 2006. When mechanistic models explain. Synthese 153:355–76.
Craver C. F. 2007. Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. Clarendon: Oxford.
Churchland P. M. 1981. Eliminative materialism and the propositional attitudes. Journal of Philosophy 78: 6790.
Churchland P. M. 1989. A neurocomputational perspective: The nature of mind and the structure of science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Churchland P. S. 1986. Neurophilosophy: Toward a unified science of the mind/.brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Darden L. 2006. Reasoning in biological discoveries: Mechanisms, interfield relations, and anomaly resolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Doris J. M. Forthcoming. Field notes: A natural history of the self. Philosophical Issues: Metaethics.
Elster J. 1989. Nuts and bolts for the social sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Friedman M. [1953] 1994. Methodology of positive economics. In The philosophy of economics, ed. Hausman D. M.., 145–78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Glennan S. S. 1996. Mechanisms and the nature of causation. Erkenntnis 44: 4971.
Glennan S. S. 2002. Rethinking mechanistic explanation. Philosophy of Science Supplement 69: S34253.
Glimcher P. W. 2003. Decisions, uncertainty and the brain: The science of neuroeconomics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Guala F. 2005. Methodology of experimental economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gul F. and Pesendorfer W.. 2005. The case for mindless economics. Manuscript. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
Harrison G. W. 2008. Neuroeconomics: a critical reconsideration. Economics and Philosophy 24.
Haugland J. and Conant J., eds. 2000. The road since structure. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Hausman D. M. 1992. The inexact and separate science of economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hedström P. 2005. Dissecting the social: On the principles of analytic sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hedström P. and Swedberg P.. 1998. Social mechanisms: An analytical approach to social theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hempel C. 1965a. Aspects of scientific explanation and other essays in the philosophy of science. New York: Free Press.
Hempel C. 1965b. Aspects of scientific explanation. In Aspects of scientific explanation and other essays in the philosophy of science, 331496. New York: Free Press.
Hitchcock C. and Woodward J.. 2003. Explanatory generalizations, Part 2: plumbing explanatory depth. Nous 37: 181–99.
Kauffman S. A. 1970. Articulation of parts explanation in biology and the rational search for them. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 8: 257–72.
Lakatos I. and Musgrave A., eds. 1970. Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Machamer P. K., Darden L. and Craver C. F.. 2000. Thinking about mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 67: 125.
Mäki U. 1994. Isolation, idealization and truth in economics. In Idealization in economics, ed. Hamminga B. and de Marchi N.. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 38 (Special issue): 147–68.
Marr D. 1982. Vision. San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman.
McCabe K. 2008. Neuroeconomics and the economic sciences. Economics and Philosophy 24.
Pearl J. 2000. Causality: Models, reasoning, and inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Plott C. R. 1997. Laboratory experimental testbeds: Application to the PCS auction. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy 6: 605–38.
Railton P. 1978. A deductive-nomological model of probabilistic explanation. Philosophy of Science 45: 206–26.
Reiss J. 2007. Do we need mechanisms in social science? Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37: 163–84.
Rosenberg A. 2007. Philosophy of social science. Boulder, CO: Westview/Harper Collins.
Roth A. 2002. The economist as engineer: game theory, experimental economics and computation as tools of design economics. Econometrica 70: 1341–78.
Salmon W. 1971a. Statistical explanation. In Statistical explanation and statistical relevance, ed. Salmon W., 2987. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Salmon W., ed. 1971b. Statistical explanation and statistical relevance. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Salmon W. 1984. Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Scriven M. 1962. Explanations, predictions, and laws. In Scientific explanation, space, and time, ed. Feigl H. and Maxwell G., 170230. Vol. 3 of Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Sen A. 1977. Rational fools. Philosophy and Public Affairs 317–44.
Simon H. 1969. The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Simon H. 1994. Testability and approximation. In The philosophy of economics, ed. Hausman D. M.., 214–16. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Steel D. 2008. Across the boundaries: Extrapolation in biology and social science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thaler R. 1980. Towards a positive theory of consumer choice. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 1: 3960.
Woodward J. 1989. The causal/mechanical model of explanation. In Scientific Explanation, ed. Kitcher P. and Salmon W.. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13: 357–83.
Woodward J. 2002. What is a mechanism? A counterfactual account. Philosophy of Science (Supplement) 69: S36677.
Woodward J. 2003. Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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: 1
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 179 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.