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date: 06 December 2019

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

The selection of topics and authors for this volume is based a particular perspective and a specific aim, about both of which we should be clear up front. First, we take economics fully seriously as a science, and this leads us to treat the philosophy of economics as a branch of the philosophy of science. Second, we set out to add significant new material to the foundations of the philosophy of economics as so conceived. In light of this combination of our standpoint, we do not cover normative issues, except where they make direct contact with economists' ways of gathering facts, building models, and testing generalizations. In light of our goal, we do not simply survey a fixed and familiar set of issues in philosophy of economic science, but instead seek to expand the set in a way that reflects recent expansion and changes in the range of activities engaged in by economists.

There are many good volumes already available on the normative issues, and any attempt to cover both them and the philosophy of science issues would have meant either a prohibitively large volume or a superficial one. Our focus is on new material rather than surveys of old debates because we think—as we argue in our first chapter—that economics and philosophy of science have undergone significant revision since the received set of core concerns in philosophy of economics stabilized in the 1970s. We take very seriously the naturalistic insistence that philosophy of science is continuous with science itself and that the actual practice of a scientific discipline, such as economics, must be the basic test against which the philosophy of the discipline in question is evaluated. Thus the essays in this volume consistently engage concrete issues in economics, and a number of our contributors are practicing economists. (One of the editors, Ross, spends about half of his working time writing strategic analyses of industries in South Africa.) This Handbook will be true to our intended conception if readers increasingly find themselves unsure about where to locate the boundary between economic science and its philosophy. Indeed, we suggest that the boundary metaphor is misleading; instead, there is only a gradual and continuous shift of emphasis as one moves from questions that are more empirical and less conceptual in emphasis, to questions framed under the opposite polarization.

We would like to thank Nelleke Bak for her usual exacting editorial work, along with Mark Holcombe. Peter Ohlin at Oxford University Press, and series editor Paul Moser initiated and supported the project through its unduly long gestation; we thank them particularly for their patience.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's Center for Ethics and Values in the Sciences funded a three‐day conference at which rough drafts of the chapters were presented and discussed among the authors. We think that this approach significantly strengthened the final product. Almost all of the chapters are entirely new work, with the following exceptions: Chapter 22 is a revised version of Dasgupta (2005), “What Do Economists Analyze and Why: Values or Facts?”, Economics and Philosophy 21:221–278. We would like to thank Cambridge University Press for permission to include it here. Chapter 18 is an English‐language, and otherwise revised, version of an article currently slated for publication in Spanish in El Trimestre Economico. Finally, one section of Chapter 9 is directly adapted from D. Ross, C. Sharp, R. Vuchinich, and D. Spurrett (2008), Midbrain Mutiny: The Picoeconomics and Neuroeconomics of Disordered Gambling, MIT Press. We are grateful to the Press for allowing us to use this material. Finally, we thank Richard Charton for an excellent index.