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On the hidden thought experiments of economic theory

Thoma, Johanna (2016) On the hidden thought experiments of economic theory. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 46 (2). pp. 129-146. ISSN 1552-7441

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0048393115613570

Abstract

Most papers in theoretical economics contain thought experiments. They take the form of more informal bits of reasoning that precede the presentation of the formal, mathematical models these papers are known for. These thought experiments differ from the formal models in various ways. In particular, they do not invoke the same idealized assumptions about the rationality, knowledge and preferences of agents. The presence of thought experiments in papers that present formal models, and the fact that they differ from the formal models in this way are often ignored in debates on what, if anything, we can learn from formal models in theoretical economics. I show that paying due attention to thought experiments in theoretical economics has serious implications for this debate. Differences between thought experiments and formal models are especially problematic for Sugden’s ‘credible worlds’ account.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://journals.sagepub.com/home/pos
Additional Information: © 2015 The Author
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2018 12:15
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2018 12:19
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/88156

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