Could classical pragmatism help to rethink economic methodology?


Traditional epistemological theories have fostered an endless debate on dichotomies characterized by forms of objectivism, on the one hand, and forms of relativism/skepticism on the other. Currently, among the deep global social and cultural challenges, the crisis in epistemology is characterized by a radical questioning of the whole matrix within which such dichotomies have been drawn.

Taking into account the evolution of  economic science, the need for a  profound epistemological change turns out to be founded on the lasting intellectual failings of economics over the XX century: positivism,  methodological individualism, deductivism and mathematical modelling.

Considering this background, the contribution of classical pragmatism could be settled within  the revision of the epistemological foundations of scientific knowledge. Indeed, Charles Sanders Peirce rejected the Cartesian foundationalist approaches to ontology and epistemology and foster the revision of the ontology of human behavior and nature. Besides,  a  deeper reflection on the ‘fixation of belief’ turned out to shape the epistemological framework defended by him. Indeed, his contribution to epistemology clearly favors a fallibilist standpoint compatible with realism.

In other words, classical pragmatism rejects the theorization of knowledge under some anthropocentric foundational model of rationality, complete order and truth. Indeed, classical pragmatism places the focus on the idea of change. Peirce also addressed that values, truth, and knowledge are always being reconstructed because of the changing surrounding reality. Under his approach, the most important thing in the process of knowledge is “how to question what we know and how to reconstruct what we know to match the changing world”.

We wonder whether  classical pragamatism could contribute to substantive epistemological insights in order to face the contemporary methodological challenges in economic discourse. Indeed, we need to think about:

  • an ontology that is rooted in actual human experience and overwhelmed by the concept of reality and change,
  • the role of logic and mathematics in scientific knowledge,
  • the coexistence of laws and change in an evolutionary approach to reality,
  • the links between uncertainty and epistemological fallibilism.

Since  the need to improve the current economics curriculum is outstanding, thi attempt would certainly be fruitful.


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