Suggested Term Paper Topics

Here are just a few among thousands of possible topics.  You are welcome to define your own topic, but I would urge you to discuss it with me so that you can avoid tackling an unmanageable task.  Some of the following involve more intricate economics, while other topics are more philosophically complicated.  If you have trouble getting hold of any of these materials, please contact me.

1.  Read D. Wade Hands, "Karl Popper and Economic Methodology," (Economics and Philosophy 1(1985), pp. 83-100) and discuss the tensions between Popper's falsificationism and his views on situational logic.

2.  Read Chapter 15 (Conclusions) of Mark Blaug's The Methodology of Economics: Or How Economists Explain and write an essay reacting to his Popperian interpretation of economic methodology.

3.  Read (i) D. Bear and D. Orr, "Logic and Expediency in Economic Theorizing," (Journal of Political Economy 75 (1967): 67-91) or (ii) K. Brunner, "Assumptions and the Cognitive Quality of Theories" Synthese 20 (1969): 136-51) or (iii) Eugen Rotwein, "On 'The Methodology of Positive Economics.'" Quarterly Journal of Economics ue (1959), pp. 554-75 or (iv) Alan Musgrave, "'Unreal Assumptions' in Economic Theory: The F-Twist Untwisted." Kykos 34 (1981): 377-87 and write an essay commenting on their interpretation of Milton Friedman's methodology.

4.  Read Bruce Caldwell, "Clarifying Popper," (Journal of Economic Literature 29 (1991): 1-33) and comment on his interpretation of Popper and of the relevance of Popper's philosophy of science to economics.

5.  Read Alan Gibbard and Hal Varian, "Economic Models," (Journal of Philosophy 75(1978): 664-77) and discuss their views.  You might want to compare them to the views of  economic models defended in chapter 5 of D. Hausman, The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

6.  Read and evaluate some aspect of the critique of behavioral and neuroeconomics developed by Faruk Gul and Wolfgang Pesandorfer in "The Case for Mindless Economics," pp. 3-39 of Andrew Caplin and Andrew Schotter, eds. The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics (Oxford University Press, 2008).

7.  Comment on the scientific method employed by D. Grether and C. Plott in their essay, "Economic Theory of Choice and the Preference Reversal Phenomenon," American Economic Review 69 (1979): 623-38.

8. Comment on the view of economics and economic methodology defended by Frank Hahn in "The Winter of Our Discontent." Economica 40 (1973): 322-30.

9.  Read Terence Hutchison, "Professor Maclup on Verification in Economics." Southern Ecnomic Journal 22(1956): 158-60 and Fritz Machlup, "Rejoinder to a Reluctant Ultra-Empiricist," Southern Economic Journal 22(1956): 483-93 and attempt to clarify and resolve their disagreements.  (These essays are reprinted under revised titles in earlier editions of The Philosophy of Economics: An Anthology.)

10.  Read D. McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature 21 (1983): 481-517 or the exchange between McCloskey and Rosenberg (Economics and Philosophy 4 (1988): 129-49 and 150-66, and offer your appraisal of McCloskey's critique of economic methodology and his call for its replacement with a rhetoric of economics.

11. Comment on the controversy concerning realism in economics started by my essay, “Problems with Realism in Economics,” Economics and Philosophy 14 (1998): 185-213, to which Tony Lawson replied with "What Has Realism Got to Do with It?" which is reprinted in the anthology and to which Uskali Mäki replied in “Reclaiming relevant realism”, Journal of Economic Methodology, 7, No 1, March 2000, 109-125.  My response to Lawson appears in  "Ontology and Methodology in Economics," Economics and Philosophy 15 (1999): 283-88, and my response to Mäki appears in "Realist Philosophy and Methodology of Economics: What Is It?" Journal of Economic Methodology 7 (2000): 127-33.

12.  Paul Samuelson criticizes Friedman and defends a much more behaviorist view of economics in "Problems of Methodology – Discussion." American Economic Review 54 (1963) pp. 736-40. Write an essay discussing his views.

13.  In his essay, "Appraising General Equilibrium Analysis," Economics and Philosophy 1 (1985), pp. 23-38, E. Roy Weintraub applies Lakatos' Methodology of Scientific Research Programs.  Write an essay commenting on his application.

14.  Write an essay commenting on Alvin Roth's essay, "Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: A Methodological Overview," Economic Journal 98 (1988): pp. 974-1031.  Be sure to compare his view with the essay by Vernon Smith in the anthology.

15.  Write an essay considering Amartya Sen's critique of revealed preference theory in "Behavior and the Concept of Preference." Economica 40 (1973), pp. 241-59.

16.  Herbert Simon criticizes the "substantive" view of rationality that in his view is standard in orthodox economics and argues instead for a procedural view.  Write an essay assessing his views as developed in "From Substantive to Procedural Rationality," pp. 129-48 of Spiro Latsis, ed. Method and Appraisal in Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.