Philosophy and epistemology of the economics

lecon2061  2022-2023  Louvain-la-Neuve

Philosophy and epistemology of the economics
5.00 credits
30.0 h
Main themes
The teacher of the course will focus his remarks on two main issues: (1) How economists do they work and they say what they do? What about their claim to "do science"? What is a science ? (2) The work of economists and what they say is there any consistency in depth? The economy, as social science, is it really "serving society", and if so, how? In short it is structured education with a first phase of "epistemology positive" and a second component of "critical epistemology". Not favor one of these two parts of the course would be an apology simplistic current practice of discipline, a critical free and exaggerated.
Learning outcomes

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 Epistemology is the study of the formation and circulation of knowledge. The epistemology of science economic examines how economists produce their statements about the business world, how they move these claims, and the consistency of their knowledge. After completing this course, students should have an economist image clearer and more specific assumptions, methods and "black boxes"; of economic science. It should be able to articulate both the strengths and weaknesses of the economic approach, and better understand the tension between the desire for "scientific"; (which often tend to want to unify the field of economy) and the desire to " Explanatory plurality";(which tend instead to refuse unification). In sum, it is in the course of the debate between those who believe the current economy is becoming a science and those who think it has always been, and can only be a " ideology".
This course provides an introduction to epistemology in general, with a strong focus on the epistemology of economics. The following topics are studied: scientificity criteria, methods of assessment of knowledge, epistemological obstacles, scientific revolutions, the status of economics as a "science", the status of "economic laws", the dynamics of knowledge accumulation in economics, the role of value judgements in economics, and the relation between economics, politics and ideology.
Teaching methods
This course is organized in two parts.
The first part is made of ex cathedra lectures introducing epistemology and epistemology of economics. This part introduces basic concepts allowing to study the production - and the status - of knowledge, and to put in perspectives, using those elements, the methods of knowledge production and evaluation in the economic discipline, as well as their evolutions across centuries.
The second part is organized around oral presentations, by students, of chapters and articles taken from the classics of the philosophy of economics. The goal is here to allow students to familiarize themselves with the critical practice of economic discourses, and to allow them to discover, by themselves, that the criticism of the foundations of economic knowledge is not only valuable per se, but allows also for a better understanding of many economic problems.
Evaluation methods
In the first session, the evaluation is based on:
(1) the presentation, by groups of students, of a chapter/article on the philosophical foundations of economic analysis (20 % of the final grade). The evaluation criteria are: (i) quality of understanding and presentation of the theses of the chapter/article; (ii) accuracy in the presentation of those theses; (iii) capacity to connect the theses of the chapter/article with the material studied in the course in a relevant way; (iv) capacity to analyse and criticize the theses of the chapter/article in a relevant way.
(2) a final written exam, which takes the form of an "open book" exam (80 % of the final grade). Students are asked to write a short essay (2 pages) on an open question in the epistemology and philosophy of economics. Criteria of evaluation include: (1) relevancy of used materials; (2) clarity and accuracy of statements (definition of terms); (3) justification of statements; (4) originality of arguments.
In the second session, the evaluation is based only on a written exam, of the open book style, with same evaluation criteria as (2). (100 % of the final grade)
  • Boumans, M., Davies, J. (2015). Economic Methodology: Understanding Economics as a Science, Routledge, London.
  • Broome, J. (1999). Ethics out of Economics. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hempel, C.G. (1966). Elements d'épistémologie. Armand Collin, Paris.
  • Kolm, S.C. (1986). Philosophie Economique. Le Seuil, Paris.
  • Leontief, W. (1966). Essays in Economics. White Plains: International Arts and Sciences Press, New-York.
  • Robinson, J. (1962). Economic Philosophy. An Essay on the Progress of Economic Thought. Anchor Books, New-York.
  • Sen, A.K. (1982). Choice, Welfare and Measurement, Harvard University Press.
  • Sen, A.K. (1985). On Ethics and Economics, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
  • Soler, L. (2019). Introduction à l’Epistémologie. Ellipses, Paris.
Teaching materials
  • Slides du cours (fournis par l'enseignant) disponibles à l'avance sur Moodle
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Learning outcomes
Certificat d'université en éthique économique et sociale

Master [120] in Ethics

Master [120] in Philosophy

Master [120] in Economics: General