Help me find and explore the methodological pigeon-hole of my department
December 1, 2012 10:05 AM Subscribe
Help me to philosophically pigeon-hole what I take to be the methodological
views of many professors in my economics department. Then help me to explore that and other pigeon-holes.
My university department does a lot of work in macroeconomics. If I were to ask many of the professors of my department to succinctly summarize their methodological approach to macroeconomics, I believe that they would say something like this:
1. “We build models which are highly simplified representations of national economies, which may contain some false premises, but contains enough essential elements of truth that (we hope) will allow us to fit the data.”
2. “We reject models which are flagrantly at odds with the data.”
3. “We “rank” the models according to how they fit the data, although this is not always straightforward, since the models can fit the data on many different dimensions, and we are not always interested in all of the dimensions on which the model can fit. ”
4. “We can learn things about the phenomena we are interested in from this approach.”
My questions are as follows. (a). If you were to hear these sorts of statements, would you agree that that person in question is coming from a methodologically anti-realist and falsificationist perspective? (b.) If not then what is it philosophically/methodologically- if anything? (c.) Can you give me examples of other areas of science/social science where this sort of methodology is used? (d.) Your thoughts on/recommendations for sources of information on methodological realism/anti-realism in social science in particular.
Please note: I am fully aware of the tough old econ blogosphere out there, so no need to refer me to it. I am also aware that economics has gone through reputational wringer of late, and that deep divisions exist within the profession. I don’t really want to discuss economics per-se here – it’s the methodology above I’m trying to zero in-on for the purposes of this question. If you know something about epistemology in general, or in hard or social science I would particularly like to hear from you.
About me: A grad student in economics. Have read one book on philosophy of science recently, after a lot of implicit absorption of economists’ views on methodology, it was a real eye-opener. From it I think I got the basic basics of some of the major philosophy of science ideas, which is what has prompted this question.