MET510: Scientific methods, Spring 2017

As of March 24, 2017 (exam date).

Objectives:

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.

Lectures:

All meetings are in the meetingroom «midt-i-mellom II,» not so far from the
library.
  • (January 23-27): 1015-1200 all days.
  • (February 27 – March 3): 1215-1400 all days except Thursday (1015-1200).

Requirements for course credits:

  • Active participation in class in both parts of the course.
  • A term-paper. If necessary, revise-and-resubmits will be used.
    Deadline: Friday April 28.
  • Acceptable performance on written exam (letter grade). Exam date: Tuesday June 13.

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.

Readings

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.

Lecture notes

The slides I use when teaching will be available after each of the two sets of lectures. These are not intended as stand-alone introductions to any of the topics, and are not written to be cited or referenced.

First part of the course:

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

  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 Philosoph of Economic Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009; ch. 14, pp. 386-409.
  4. Causality and economic explanations.
  5. Statistical and scientific practice.
  6. The term paper: requirements and brain storming.

Second part of the course:

  1. The ethics of research and policy advice.
  2. Economic advice.
    • * Michel Callon (2007). What Does It Mean to Say That Economics Is
      Performative?
      Chapter 11, p. 311-357 of Do Economists make
      Markets
      (ed by MacKenzie, Muniesa and Siu), Princeton University
      Press.
    • * Gerald R. Faulhaber and William J. Baumol (1988). Economists as Innovators: Practical Products of Theoretical Research, Journal of Economic
      Literature
      , 26(2), 577-600.
    • * Luigi Zingales (2013). Preventing Economists’ Capture. In Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Interest Influence and How to Limit it. Edited by
      Daniel Carpenter and David Moss.
  3. The history of a scientific subject. These readings are not selected
    only (or mainly) for their contents, but for the different ways of writing
    intellectual history they represent.

  4. The social science of science
  5. Non-orthodox traditions.
  6. Presentation of term-paper projects.