ECON9010: Theory of Science for Economists, U of Oslo, spring 2018

Updated with term paper deadline May 29, 2018.


The aim is that students should know and discuss the most common arguments made on the knowledge-theoretical grounding of scientific practice in economics and related fields such as finance and management science. The practice of science is also a social practice and we attempt to turn our social science perspective on this practice. The course also introduces the students to the most relevant topics in the ethics of social science research in our disciplines.


Room for meetings 1220 (with the exception of Friday 1215-1400 in 1047), Eilert Sundt’s building.
  • Monday Mar 5, 1215-1400.
  • Tuesday Mar 6, 0915-1100 and 1215-1400.
  • Wednesday Mar 7, 1215-1400.
  • Thursday Mar 8, 1015-1200.
  • Friday Mar 9, 0915-1100 and 1215-1400

Outside of the lectures, I’ll be sitting in office 1219.

Requirements for course credits:

  • Active participation in class.
  • A term-paper. Deadline: June 15, 1400 CET. Termpaper to be delivered to by email.

The Term paper

Term-papers will be read under the presumption that the author is aware of the basic rules of academic writing (see for instance Booth, Williams and Colomb (2003), The Craft of Research). I also have some stylistic demands: Paper to be submitted as a pdf file in a 12 pt serif font, preferably Times, with a4 paper size; 1 inch margins; with indents and no vertical spacing to start a new paragraph; left- and right justified; and with a line spacing of 1.5. There should be a 100-150 word abstract. I believe 10-15 pages in total should be sufficient to get the point across for everyone, but there is no hard upper or lower limit to what I’ll accept.

Everyone should make a short presentation on a proposal for the term-paper in the last lecture before the course ends.


There are no practical text-books that cover everything we need to do. The closest we get is the tiny leaflet by Okasha, Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction, that covers general topics in the philosophy of science (but is not particularly strong on social science). There are general textbooks on the philosophy of social science available (such as Rosenberg’s Philosophy of Social Science, but these are perhaps not so generally accessible to econ and business students. 

Some of the readings are marked with an asterisk. These are core readings. Those not marked by an asterisk are important supporting readings. I will help make the exotic readings available.

Lecture notes

The slides I use when teaching will be available after each lecture. These are not intended as stand-alone introductions to any of the topics, and are not written to be cited or referenced. If you are a course participant, please sign on at this google form.

Topics and readings:

  1. Why do we need a philosophy of science? The practical and
    political problem of Demarcation, and the proposed solution of Karl

  2. Popper, with some classic challenges.
    • * Samir Okasha (2002). Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction.
      Oxford University Press.
    • * Larry Laudan (1983). «The Demise of the Demarcation Problem.» In Cohen, R. S. & Laudan, L. (Eds.), Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 111-127.
    • * Michael D. Gordin (2012). «Introduction: Bad Ideas.» In The Pseudo Science Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe, University of Chicago Press, 2012, 1-18.
    • * H. M. Collins (1983). «The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge: Studies of Contemporary Science.» Annual Review of Sociology, 9, 265-285.
  3. Scientific explanations.
    • * Joseph Heath (2005). Methodological Individualism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
    • Emile Durkheim (1938). Social Facts. Reprinted in M&M, page 433-440.
    • Kevin Hoover (2009) «Microfoundations and the Ontology of Macroeconomics.» in Harold Kincaid and Donald Ross, editors, Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Economic Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009; ch. 14, pp. 386-409.
  4. Causality and economic explanations.
  5. Statistical and scientific practice.
  6. Economists making things happen.
  7. The social science of science