Ethics and Economics Resources week 4 - Facts and Values

Apologies that my introduction to this topic was so hurried.

In brief, I suggested that the fact-value distinction in economics can be seen in two ways, and that the second way is now more relevant to contemporary economics (though traces of the old strict positivism can still be found)

1. In terms of a metaphysical thesis about the the nature of knowledge, a philosophical position known as positivism. Its origins lie in David Hume's claim that knowledge can be divided into the categories of deductive relationships between ideas and empirically observable facts. Everything else is mere 'metaphysics' and should be thrown out.

2. As a normative claim pertaining to how economists should go about their work and thus relating to their professional identity and (ethical) code of conduct. Here the focus is on the comparative advantage of economists (technical rather than ethical analysis); their pretensions to natural sciences status and methodology; the appropriate division of labour between goal and value setting (by individuals/society) and technical (logistical) analysis (by economists).


Background to the assigned reading

Hilary Putnam, The collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays (Harvard University Press, 2002).

Hilary Putnam, “For Ethics and Economics without the Dichotomies,” Review of Political Economy 15, no. 3 (July 2003): 395-412.

Partha Dasgupta, “What Do Economists Analyze and Why: Values or Facts?,” Economics and Philosophy 21, no. 2 (2005): 221-278.

Hilary Putnam and Vivian Walsh, “Facts, Theories, Values and Destitution in the Works of Sir Partha Dasgupta,” Review of Political Economy 19, no. 2 (2007): 181.

Partha Dasgupta, “Reply to Putnam and Walsh,” Economics and Philosophy 23, no. 3 (2007): 365-372.

References to books/papers discussed in the class

Amartya Sen, On ethics and economics (Wiley-Blackwell, 1988).

Amartya Sen, Development as freedom (Oxford University Press, 1999).