Philosophy of Economics

Recent economic challenges in both Dutch and European society suggest that it is more important than ever to reflect critically about economic policy-making, the models used by economists, and the ethical implications of economic decisions. Policy-makers and the public alike are asking tough and fundamental questions about economics as a discipline, and the economic underpinnings of policymaking. While such questions are sometimes debated in a wide-ranging and general way, they often connect directly to what are specific challenges also from a philosophical perspective.

Philosophical issues are: the methodological and ethical aspects of discounting the future, well-being, sustainability, inequality, long-term policy making, the relation between incentives, preferences and motives, the vexed relations between case studies and general policy, and the role of economic expertise in a democracy. This area of theoretic philosophy has a lasting tradition in the Faculty and the University, codified in the internationally renowned Erasmus Institute for the Philosophy of Economics (EIPE).


‘Institutions’ is the research programme of the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) with a high international profile. EIPE is a multidisciplinary institute at a university that has a large and strong economics department. EIPE is running the world’s only international PhD programme in this area. The research by EIPE members and PhD students addresses, both systematically and historically, methodological and conceptual issues in economics as part of the recently established field of philosophy of economics. In addition to contributions to general issues in the field, special focus is laid on analysing and using theories of institutions.

The relevant audience is mainly international and consists of other philosophers of economics, practising economists, philosophers of science, epistemologists, and the science studies community in general. The programme is thus academic in orientation, but it has immediate wider societal relevance.

Dimensions of Research

  1. Philosophy in Economics: A major focus is on the controversy between different forms of realism and anti-realism. Another focus is on the nature and role of unificationist and coherentist considerations in explanation and justification.
  2. Economics in Philosophy: Focus on economic concepts and metaphors as tools in epistemology and in the philosophy of science.
  3. Institutions of Economics: Focus on economics itself as an institution, embedded in the institutions of science and society, using rhetorical, anthropological, and sociological approaches. Such endeavours give rise to various philosophical issues, such as those in epistemology, ethics, philosophy of language, as well as second-order issues in the philosophy of science: how are these accounts structured and justified?
  4. Economics of Institutions: The recent reorientation of economics towards addressing the issue of how institutions shape economic behaviour and performance gives rise to the need for a philosophical scrutiny of a variety of fundamental concepts, ontological commitments, and explanatory structures. This set of issues connects with social ontology, a recently emerged subfield within philosophy.