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Economics and Philosophy

The Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle referred to economics as "the dismal science" -- in a stupefying essay advocating the return of slavery, no less. Passions about this "inexact and separate science" have remained high since. \r\n\r\nEconomic indicators are cited in support of taking one political decision over another, yet with such arguments come a train of assumptions about fairness, justice, rights, human rationality, not to mention the very bearing of economic theory on predicting and explaining individual or group responses to incentives. No wonder passions run high.\r\n\r\nThis course will look at philosophical and foundational questions in theoretical economics and in the application of economic theory to social and political problems. We will look at the nature and limits of principles of rationality and the forms of reasoning these principles license, the foundations of property rights, the nature of markets and their limits, the testability of substantive economic assumptions, and how to assess economic models. By the end of the course, you should have a better understanding of the underlying assumptions of economic models and you should be in a better position to critically assess those assumptions. As a consequence, you should be in a better position to critically evaluate economic arguments.

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