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Models and Explanation in Economics

  • N. Emrah Aydinonat - Helsinki
Thursday 24 May 2018
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Institute for Philosophy is pleased to announce a lecture by

N. Emrah Aydinonat


Consider the following seemingly simple questions. Can an economic model that employs obviously “false” assumptions explain anything? Can it help us understand the real world? If most people behave irrationally by the standards of Homo Economicus, can economic models help us understand how people behave? If markets are never perfect, can we trust the invisible hand? Could it be possible, as Paul Krugman once said, that economists “mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth” (NY Times, 2.9.2009)? Based on these and similar questions, students of economics sometimes express their doubts concerning the value of economic models. Heterodox economists and other social scientists also criticize economics for similar reasons. Critics commonly argue that because economic models employ unrealistic (“false”) assumptions, they do not have explanatory value. The present lecture provides a systematic summary of this type of criticism, the available arguments against it, and the pitfalls that should be avoided in evaluating economic models. The lecture aims to convey a better understanding of the explanatory power and limits of economic models.


N. Emrah Aydinonat (PhD, Erasmus University Rotterdam) is a senior researcher at TINT (Centre for Philosophy of Social Science, University of Helsinki). He is the author of The Invisible Hand in Economics (Routledge, 2008) and co-editor of Economics Made Fun: Philosophy of the Pop-economics (Routledge, 2015). More information

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