EIPE Research Statement

Contemporary economics addresses many questions that are often considered ‘philosophical’, and many core issues in philosophy are to some extent ‘economic’. Indeed, the separation of economics and philosophy into fully distinct domains of enquiry is a relatively recent phenomenon, and is to a large extent artificial.

The most important points of contact between philosophy and economics are in the areas of theory, methodology, rationality, and ethics. At EIPE, we study these four areas from a philosophical perspective. What is special about EIPE is that in doing so we engage with how economics is actually practiced by economists. We make explicit, articulate and critically discuss what can remain implicit and opaque in economics.

Theory

In the area of theory we analyse the manner in which economics makes implicit assumptions about the underlying ontology, causation and the relation between the individual and the social. To provide a perspective on economic research as practised by the mainstream, we research both the history of the discipline and heterodox approaches. Particular historical periods and historical economists we focus on include early macroeconomics, Lionel Robbins, John Maynard Keynes and Keynesianism. Among the heterodox approaches, we have special strengths in evolutionary and institutionalist economics and, more specifically, look at generalised Darwinism, ontology, historical specificity and evolutionary game theory.

Methodology

In the area of methodology, we study the myriad of ways in which the products of economics such as predictions, explanations, and theories are created using models, experiments, statistical analysis and other methods. Consequently, the boundaries between economics and philosophy are especially fluid here. At EIPE, we have research strengths in virtually all areas of methodology, including scientific explanation, causation, measurement, experimentation, thought experiments and simulation, case studies, models and idealisation.

Rationality

In the area of rationality, we study preferences and choices by individuals and groups, as analysed in the various branches of rational choice theory. These branches, especially individual decision theory, game theory and social choice, form an important building block of modern microeconomics. We analyse in how far economic theory can be built on rational choice theory and what kinds of limitations such an approach entails. Members of EIPE are specifically interested in models of social choice and intertemporal decision and game theory.

Ethics

In the area of ethics, we study the how theories, concepts and facts in economics  presuppose ethical commitments. At EIPE we contribute to research and teaching on ethical issues in so far as they relate to economics, especially on the evolutionary foundations of ethics, implicit moral judgements in economic measurement, justifying the aims of economics as a science and the appropriateness of research methods to the purposes of science.


At EIPE, we think that philosophical research on the methodological and foundational  aspects of economics has to proceed in close contact to economics. EIPE members  contribute to research in all of those four fields of enquiry by organising and presenting at international workshops and conferences and publishing in leading journals.

About EIPE

It is critically important that work in political philosophy be informed by work in the empirical social sciences, including economics. At the same time, work in economics inevitably raises a number of important philosophical questions, including questions of ethics. There are few places where such interdisciplinary research takes place and fewer still which train students to draw out the connections between philosophy and economics. EIPE is a welcome outlier, a place where inter-disciplinary conversations and research thrives. It was a pleasure to present my work to such a stimulating group of scholars.
Debra Satz
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University