WP 2021-04 Neo-Samuelsonian Methodology, Normative Economics, and the Quantitative Intentional Stance
AUTHORS: Don Ross
ABSTRACT: Wade Hands (2013) critically consolidated a new and growing approach to revealed preference interpretations and methods, which he called “Contemporary Revealed Preference Theory” (CRPT). He recognised that CRPT is folded into a more comprehensive philosophy of economics due to Don Ross, which Ross dubs “Neo-Samuelsonian Philosophy of Economics” (NSEP). Hands calls this “the elephant in the room” where his criticisms of CRPT as an account of normative economics are concerned. I address Hands’s criticisms of CRPT using the full resources of NSPE. This leads to substantial reconsideration of normative economics, with respect to both assessments of general rationality in economic agents, and emphasis on welfare improvement in applied policy work. Main conclusions are that (1) economists are not properly in the business of assessing general rationality, a topic best left to a philosophical tradition descended from Aristotle; (2) the borrowing of theoretical structures from the foundations of microeconomics in the project of philosophical decision theory encourages the idea that there should be a rigorous bridge between economists’ interest in technical choice consistency and philosophers’ interest in general rationality, but NSPE implies that this approach to bridge-building is misguided; (3) economics is a policy science, but the policy domains to which it aims to be relevant are public and corporate, not personal; (4) NSPE provides clearer insight than alternative philosophies of economics as to why economists concentrate on welfare, rather than well-being, as their primary normative target.