Week 3 roadmap (there be monsters here)

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2010 by Randy

Bonjour, y’all!

I just took my dog to the vet to be castrated, so naturally my thoughts drifted to graduate education and, thence, to the Phil Sci seminar. (Note: for those of you who missed the militant feminist word-filtering of the 1980’s, the words castration and seminar complete a coherent thought cycle 😉

There are two major readings for Tuesday. Both are from the Journal of Evolutionary Economics and both are authored by scholars who are at the forefront of evo-econ, economic methodology, and the conversation on the philosophy of economics. Geoffrey Hodgson does a nice job of following the history of the movements to see Darwinian evolution and darwinism adopted in economics: as metaphor, as analogy, and now, as ontology. Ulrich Witt also reviews the history in more detail and introduces some of the important figures (Schumpeter, Nelson and Winter) and sets up a simple taxonomy.

I think that these two papers merit reading (1) individually, (2) as a pair, and (3) within the context of the first two meetings of the seminar. Where are Witt and Hodgson in agreement? Disagreement? If there is such a thing as Universal Darwinism, how does it relate to our discussion of Darwin and neo-darwinism?

I have added to the folder some additional readings that may raise some interesting questions. Feel free to choose one or more of the additional readings to test this supposition. We can address your questions during the course of the seminar Tuesday. One paper is the classic piece of more than a century ago, wherein Thorsten Veblen asks, “Why is Economics not an Evolutionary Science?” in one of the top 3 econ journals. This paper may resonate with your interpretation of Hodgson. I have included McPherson and Ranger-Moore’s piece on “Evolution on a Dancing Landscape”. These are sociologists who explicitly use the analogies of natural selection and fitness, and go so far as to claim analogy between Sewall Wright’s fitness landscape (great fodder of philosophy of biology!) and Peter Blau’s n-dimensional social attribute space. The paper is also empirical! … and represents a significant offering in the epistemology of sociology. There is a book chapter by Esben Sloth Anderson on the modeling implications of Nelson and Winter’s conception of evolutionary economics. No one on the planet has spent more time sorting between Schumpeterian evolutionary economics and post-Schumpeterian evolutionary economics than Anderson. I have another old piece by Henk Houthakker, one of the leading lights in economics during the second half of the last century. It’s a light read by one of the outstanding practitioners of mathematical economics of all time. The final piece I have included is by Hannan, Carroll, and Polos – two empirical sociologists who have lead a sub-field called the population ecology of organizations, and a logician. I’ll speak about a new book, which is a longer version of this paper, which uses formal logic to describe a population of firms that fill an “ecological niche”. Interestingly, this approach echoes in the literature of philosophy of biology on “what is a species” and on allied concepts of speciation.

With your indulgence, I’ll begin the seminar with my framing of the who, when, and why of attempts to make evolutionary theory and ecology explicit in economics and management. I’ll pose a few puzzles and make some links to book-length works that you might find interesting. Then we’ll leap into Hodgson and Witt. And, thence, …


3 Responses to “Week 3 roadmap (there be monsters here)”

  1. For some time I’ve been trying to track down the location of Veblen’s house when he lived here in Columbia. Somewhere off Stewart, but I’m not sure exactly where. If I find it, can we do a field trip?

  2. Field trips MUST include thirst-quenching.

  3. Randy: I’m really looking forward to this. It will be eye opening. Few philosophers, I think, consider economics when considering causation. Notable exception is Woodward.

    Peter: I was interested in that myself. I live on Park Hill Ave (off Garth and south of Broadway). I was thinking that there was a small chance that he lived near me. My home is too young–built in 1929. But, maybe…. I would like to ask someone in the Historical Society.

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