Historical models and economic syllogisms

Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira

Journal of Economic Methodology, 25 (1), 2018: 68-82. Paper presented to the 3rd International Conference Economic Philosophy, Aix-en-Provence, June 15-16, 2016. Revised August 31, 2016.

This paper proposes a classification of economic models into three types: historical, axiomatic, and conditional. Historical or empirical models utilize the historical-deductive method, and are appropriate method for substantive sciences such as biology and economics. They are generalizations from the economic regularities and tendencies that we find in the real world. Axiomatic models utilize the hypothetical-deductive method; they are syllogisms whose major premise is an axiom - a self-evident truth; they are appropriate for methodological sciences such as mathematics and econometrics. Conditional economic models are likewise syllogisms, but they are suitable for economics because they make for clearer and more precise economic reasoning. The criterion of truth of the substantive sciences is the conformity with reality, of the methodological science, its internal consistency. When a school of economic thought adopts mainly axiomatic models, as is the case with neoclassical economics, it implicitly falls into contradiction because their champions believe in the conformity with reality criterion.

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