The Rise of Political Economy as a Science: Methodology and the Classical Economists

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MIT Press, Jan 1, 2003 - Business & Economics - 489 pages
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Reviews the epistemological ideas that inspired the classical economists: the methodological principles of Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Stewart, Herschel, and Whewell.

The classical age of economics was marked by an intense interest in scientific methodology. It was, moreover, an age when science and philosophy were not yet distinct disciplines, and the educated were polymaths. The classical economists were acutely aware that suitable methods had to be developed before a body of knowledge could be deemed philosophical or scientific. They did not formulate their methodological views in a vacuum, but drew on a rich collection of philosophical ideas. Consequently, issues of methodology were at the heart of political economys rise as a science. The classical era of economics opened under Adam Smith with political economy understood as an integral part of a broader system of social philosophy; by the end, it had emerged via J. S. Mill as a "separate science", albeit one still inextricably tied to the other social sciences and to ethics. The Rise of Political Economy as a Science opens with a review of the epistemological ideas that inspired the classical economists: the methodological principles of Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Stewart, Herschel, and Whewell. These principles were influential not just in the development of political economy, but in the rise of social science in general. The author then examines science in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, with a particular emphasis on the all-important concept of induction. Having laid the necessary groundwork, she proceeds to a history and analysis of the methodologies of four economist-philosophers—Adam Smith, Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, and J. S. Mill—selected for their historical importance as founders of economics and for their common Scottish intellectual lineage. Concluding remarks put classical methodology into a broader historical perspective.

 

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Contents

Introduction Scope Purpose and Limitations of this Study
3
The Philosophical Background Thinkers Who Influenced the Classical Economists
9
Francis Bacon 15611626 and the Philosophy of Science
11
Mathematical Scientist
21
Philosophizing vs Experimentation
35
The DeductiveMathematical Experimental Method
43
John Locke 16321704 Epistemological Uncertainty and the Historical Plain Method
61
Pioneer in Moral Philosophy
69
Induction as Myth
202
Classical Economic Methodology
205
Adam Smith and His Newtonian Method
207
The Tie to Newton
208
Departures from Newtonian Method
215
The Significance of the Essay The History of Astronomy
220
Other Clues to Smiths Method
227
Lessons for Todays Economist
253

Dugald Stewart 17531828 and Scottish Philosophy of Science
83
Model Philosopher
86
William Whewell 17941866 Gentleman of Science
93
Science in Eighteenth and NineteenthCentury Britain
101
The Emergence of Moral Philosophy
102
The Science of Man
110
The Method of Analysis and Synthesis
128
The Clock Metaphor
131
Social Engineering and the Diffusion of Economic Knowledge
135
The Birth of Econometrics
142
A Short History of Induction
159
Bacons Theory of Induction
162
A Closer Look at Newtons Third Step
171
The Myth of Causality and Its Consequences
173
Induction in the Hands of the Scots
184
Herschel Mill and Whewell
189
Jevons and the Decline of Induction
198
Probability Theory
200
Opposing or Complementary Methods?
259
Education and Accomplishments
268
The Methodological Dialogue
283
Significance and Legacy of the MalthusRicardo Dialogue
316
John Stuart Mill Last of the Newtonians
321
Mills Analysis of the Methods of Natural Science
326
The Development of a Method of Social Science
331
The Inexact Science of Political Economy
338
Mill on Specific Methodological Issues in Political Economy
343
Mills Place in the History and Philosophy of Science
352
Concluding Remarks
355
Science and The Gentlemans Magazine 17311759
361
Selected Bibliography by Topic
377
Sources Cited
421
Author Index
447
Subject Index
461
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