Philosophy of Economics: A Retrospective Reflection

When I first became interested in philosophy of economics in the mid-1970s, the field did not exist as a distinct sub-discipline, and my involvement in it was an accident. Although as a student in the 1960s, I had had a vague interest in economics, my knowledge of economics consisted of a smattering of Marxist economics and a semester’s uninspiring introduction to microeconomics that I took as a Freshman at Harvard. My scholarly interest dates back to a series of lectures that Lord John Eatwell gave at Barnard College in 1976 that, for reasons I do not remember, I happened to sit in on. In those lectures, he discussed the controversy in capital theory between economists at Cambridge University and, on the other side, at MIT and Harvard. Since MIT and Harvard are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts : the controversy became known as “the Cambridge Controversy.” Having studied contemporary philosophy of science, which placed considerable emphasis on engagement with the actual practices of the sciences, I conceived the plan of writing a dissertation on theories of capital and interest, which became my first book, Capital, Profits, and Prices : An Essay in the Philosophy of Economics (1981). Doing so seemed to me of particular interest because the Cambridge Controversy appeared not to fit into the models of scientific debate that could be found at that time in the works of leading philosophers such as Karl Popper (1968, 1969), Thomas Kuhn (1970), Imre Lakatos (1970), Larry Laudan (1977), or Stephen Toulmin (1953)…


  1. Period 1 (1975 – 1985) : beginnings
  2. Period 2 (1985-1995) : philosophy of economics takes shape
  3. Period 3 (1995 – 2007) : maturation and transformation
  4. Period 4 (2008-2017) : a changed landscape

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