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Beyond Positivism Rev ed. Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415109116
ISBN-10: 0415109116
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Editorial Reviews


"His book is distinguished by the breadth and depth of its perspective and by an exemplary clarity of exposition..." -- The Southern Economic Journal

"It is a splendid work, rich in scholarship, judicious in tone and clearly argued." -- Mark Blaug, Wall Street Review of Books

About the Author

Bruce Caldwell is Research professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the History of Political Economy, duke University, USA

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Rev ed. edition (December 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415109116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415109116
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,419,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is probably the best introduction and overview to a broad range of philosophical concerns within the discipline of economics. It is accessible to the lay reader but is not dumbed down in order to be popular. It does not require any particular knowledge of economic theory but instead deals with general philosohical and methodological issues in economics. Nonetheless, the reader is engaged with key methodological debates within the discipline of economics.
The book implicitly contains a number of critiques of the (neoclassical) economic orthodoxy, set in their historical perspective. The basic concern of the book is with the influence of logical positivism and its descendants on economic theorising and accepted methodologies, and the book concludes with Caldwell's suggesting an approach to resolving many of these issues, called "methodological pluralism".
If you are interested in examining the philosophical foundations of economics, this is probably the best book around. If you are interested in the philosophy of economics, there is also a reader entitled "The Philosophy of Economics" by Daniel Hausman which would make a good companion. "Why Economics is not yet a Science", Alfred Eichner, 1983 is an interesting questioning of approaches and methodologies in economics. If you are interested in alternatives to mainstream economic approaches, then "A Modern Guide to Economic Thought" by Maire and Miller, 1991 is a good introduction (aimed at an interested university undergraduate without necessarily having a strong current background in economics studies).
There is also a large literature on the sociology of economics, examining how the discipline of economics adapts to new ideas and criticisms. "Canonizing Economic Theory : How Theories and Ideas Are Selected in Economics", Christopher D. MacKie, ME Sharpe, 1998 is a good starting point for this.
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Format: Paperback
The author had two broad objectives in this book. The first was to provide a critique of positivism, including logical positivism, logical empiricism, operationalism and falsificationism. The second was to identify the implications of this critique for economic methodology.
The first part of the book describes the role of the Vienna Circle in the rise of logical positivism during the 1920s and 1930s, followed by the maturation of the tradition in the form of logical empiricism, then the philosophical attack and the emergence of the "growth of knowledge" tradition with Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend.
The second part of the book consists of essays on various aspects of positivism and alternative approaches including the "Austrian" approach of Robins and Machlup (each pitted against Hutchison), Friedman's instrumentalism and Samuelson's "descriptivism".
The third part provides some provisional answers, notably a case for methodological pluralism.
In view of the way that positivism dominated the philosophy of science during the 20th century this scholarly appraisal of the rise and fall of the movement is a valuable contribution to the history of ideas. However as a contribution to contemporary thinking on these matters it would have been a more original and challenging enterprise if positivism had not already been devastated by Popper, who replaced justificationism and inductivism with critical rationalism and the non-authoritarian theory of knowledge.
This is a new edition of Caldwell's 1982 book but it is not really revised and so it does not do justice to his "mature" thinking which can be found in an article "clarifying Popper" in the Journal of Economic Literature, March 1991.
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Format: Paperback
Much positivism, little "beyond", and some skepticism

Caldwell is a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This book written in 1982 (revised edition, 1994) contrasts the methodological views of several economists with various philosophies of science, especially positivism. The author has read his sources carefully and criticized them thoughtfully.

The book is subdivided into three parts. The first part is titled "Twentieth Century Philosophy of Science" and consumes 93 of the book's 250 pages. The first 60 pages discuss positivism, and amounts to an autopsy of what Caldwell recognizes to be a dead philosophy. The next 25 pages discuss post-positivist philosophy of science, which Caldwell characterizes as "The Growth of Knowledge Tradition", which he finds in Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend and Lakatos. These authors were contributors to Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970, ed. Lakatos). In a section titled "Contemporary Philosophy of Science - A Dilettante's Review and Commentary" Caldwell writes (p. 90) that the major difference between more contemporary approaches and those of the positivists is that the former give emphasis to the role history of science as a check with which to test the rational reconstructions of philosophers.

Contemporary philosophy of science has been more empirical than that of the logical positivists. But Caldwell's valid observation about the role of history of science together with his characterization of contemporary philosophy as "growth-of-knowledge tradition" offers little insight.

Caldwell's rendering of contemporary philosophy of science is somewhat shallow and miscellaneous; he describes himself as a dilettante commentator, and indeed he is.
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