Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

On the hidden thought experiments of economic theory

Thoma, Johanna ORCID: 0000-0002-1364-4521 (2016) On the hidden thought experiments of economic theory. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 46 (2). pp. 129-146. ISSN 1552-7441

Text - Accepted Version
Download (372kB) | Preview
Identification Number: 10.1177/0048393115613570


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:
Additional Information: © 2015 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2018 12:15
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:26

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics