Programme overview

Research Master in Philosophy and Economics

Breadth of Topics 

The Research Master programme will give you the skills to engage with a broad range of issues faced by economists and by policy-makers. For example, recent research master thesis topics have included: 

  • Methodology and Philosophy of Science: the methodology of Artificial Intelligence causal inference techniques; the role of values in economics; idealized models in physics vs. economics; the methodology of synthetic control methods; the nature of mathematical explanations in the sciences. 
  • Decision-Making and Rationality: bias in decision-making; nudges as a cure for misinformation; modeling agents using vague credences; animal models in neuroeconomics. 
  • Political Philosophy: cooperation as the basis for socialism; the “non identity” problem and the duty to avert climate change; the relation between non-domination and equality; the nature of moral rights. 
  • Applied Ethics: intellectual property rights and game theory; well-being in context; fairness in the housing market; the role of central banks in mitigating climate change; equity in education. 

You can also get a sense of the kind of topics you will study on the programme by looking at our Preparatory reading list down below.


Depth of Focus 

A unique feature of our programme is that all our courses are fully interdisciplinary, focusing not on economics alone, nor on philosophy alone, but instead on philosophy of economics. For each course, you will follow small seminars of roughly fifteen students, taught by leading experts in the field. In the seminars, teachers engage in a direct exchange of ideas with students, following a “master and apprentice” model. We are invested in your success, and you will be appointed an academic coach to help you get the most out of the programme. 

Preparatory reading

Download the preparatory reading list here. This document contains three things:

(a) a small amount of required reading for you to do over the summer in preparation for the programme;

(b) further guidance on your talk at the Introductory Workshop;

(c) a larger list of suggested readings, some of which you might find useful to read over the summer in preparation for the programme.


The Curriculum 

The curriculum takes two years to complete and is structured as follows. 

Core courses in philosophy of economics (30 ECTS)  

You will take the following core courses in philosophy of economics. These courses give you a broad overview of the fundamental concepts across all areas of philosophy of economics. This breadth is essential to becoming a well-rounded researcher. Even if you ultimately specialize in applied ethics, for example, it is helpful to be able to evaluate empirical literatures from a methodological perspective. 

  • Methodology of Economics (Dr Christopher Clarke, 7.5 ECTS) introduces you to fundamental questions about causal inference, econometrics, and idealized models. The course critically examines economic methods using the tools of philosophy of science. 
  • Rationality and Choice (Dr Conrad Heilmann, 7.5 ECTS) introduces you to key concepts for understanding and evaluating how people make choices, including foundational questions about behavioural economics and the interpretation of preferences and game theory. 
  • Ethics and Economics (Dr Constanze Binder, 7.5 ECTS) introduces you to key concepts for normatively assessing different economic systems (such as capitalism and socialism) and for assessing policy proposals (such as universal basic income and climate change policies).  
  • New Developments in Economics (Dr Jack Vromen, 7.5 ECTS) introduces you to recent proposals to enrich economic theory by considering brains, evolution, morality, complexity, culture and welfare & policy. 


Specialist courses in philosophy of economics (15 ECTS)   

You also take 15 ECTS of specialist courses in philosophy of economics, which deepen your knowledge of more specific cutting-edge topics in philosophy of economics. These courses are on “hot topics” in philosophy of economics, and so they tend to vary from year to year. Taking these courses allows you to understand what it takes to engage in cutting-edge research in philosophy and economics. 

  • The Philosophy and Economics of Climate Change (Dr Constanze Binder + Dr Conrad Heilmann, 3.75 ECTS) looks at various methodological controversies in building and assessing climate models. 
  • Climate Change and the Demands of Justice (Dr Laura Garcia-Portela 3.75 ECTS) asks how individuals and policymakers ought to respond to the climate crisis, in light of rival theories of social justice.  
  • The Social Epistemology of the Social Sciences (Dr Giulia Napolitano 3.75 ECTS) asks how institutions, such as economics, can be structured so that they can generate knowledge that is trustworthy and reliable. (This course will soon have an OSIRIS entry)
  • Deliberative Democracy: Clashing Viewpoints (Dr Frederik Van De Putte, 3.75 ECTS) explores the idea that proper democracy requires that citizens engage in an open debate, rather than merely voting on referenda or electing representatives. 

Previously we offered a 7.5 ECTS course on the History of Economic Thought. This course will not be running in the '24/'25 academic year.  


Additional courses in philosophy of economics (10 ECTS)  

You choose two courses in philosophy of economics from the ESPhil MA Philosophy Now. These courses are:  

  • Social Choice Theory and Political Representation (Dr Stefan Wintein, 5 ECTS) evaluates voting systems, and the idea that voting can capture the “will of the people". It also examines some famous arguments that all voting systems are fundamentally flawed.   
  • Welfare and Cooperation (Dr Jack Vromen, 5 ECTS) evaluates psychological, economic and evolutionary explanations of cooperation. It then assesses rival views about wellbeing and welfare. When a policymaker tries to increase wellbeing, is she merely trying to satisfy peoples’ subjective preferences, increase their opportunities, or something else? 
  • Justice in the Economics and Politics of Wealth (Dr Constanze Binder, 5 ECTS) introduces the key philosophical theories of justice, and then uses them to evaluate various parts of capitalist economic systems.  
  • Capitalism and Freedom (Dr Nicholas Vrousalis, 5 ECTS) introduces theories of property rights, fair prices, exploitation, and commodification. 


Elective courses in philosophy (20 EC) 

You can take elective courses in philosophy from a large variety of options, such as those offered in the Erasmus School of Philosophy's master's programme Philosophy Now, and courses offered at the the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW). Permission can also be granted to take some elective courses in economics. 


Research in the philosophy of economics (45 EC) 

The Research Master benefits from the unique research environment offered by the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE). You are trained in interdisciplinary research skills in the following modules: (1) the academic skills course; (2) the EIPE research seminars course in which you participate in the bi-weekly research seminar along with the EIPE PhD students and the EIPE academic staff; (3) the PhD proposal / policy report course in which you are trained to write a PhD proposal or a policy report. 

Finally, there is the 20,000 word Research Master thesis (30 EC). The thesis allows you to specialize in any area of philosophy of economics that you like, or an adjacent subfield of analytic philosophy such as political philosophy, applied ethics, or philosophy of science. The Research Master programme adopts a “master apprentice” model for thesis supervision. This means you will have regular meetings throughout your second year with your thesis supervisor, a member of the EIPE staff who has expertise on your topic. You discuss your ideas with them, and they will teach you how to craft an excellent thesis.

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