nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2008‒03‒25
eight papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Chicago

  1. Adam Smith's stages of history By Anthony Brewer
  2. F.Y. Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics and his Utilitarianism: The Derivation from the ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’* By Tomoyuki Uemiya
  3. Denis Goulet and the project of development ethics: choices in methodology, focus and organization. By Des Gasper
  4. Self-Knowledge and Self-Deception By H. Peyton Young
  5. Towards Economics as a Natural Science By Yuri Maksimenko
  6. The Life Cycle of Scholars and Papers in Economics -- the "Citation Death Tax" By Joshua Aizenman; Kenneth Kletzer
  7. Stochastic Volatility: Origins and Overview By Neil Shephard; Torben G. Andersen
  8. From Formal Subsumption to General Intellect: Elements for a Marxist Reading of the Thesis of Cognitive Capitalism, in Historical Materialism By Carlo Vercellone

  1. By: Anthony Brewer
    Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine Smith's four stages theory of history as an account of economic and social development, with an emphasis on the arguments and evidence he used to support it. In his biographical account of Smith's life, his friend Dugald Stewart described Smith’s method as 'conjectural history', initiating a debate which has continued ever since. Stewart meant that Smith used (informed) conjecture to fill the unavoidable gaps in the historical evidence, though hostile commentators have interpreted it as saying that Smith simply ignored the facts. This paper sets Smith's account alongside the evidence available to him to try to establish how much of it is pure speculation, unconstrained by historical evidence, and how much is rather a matter of interpreting evidence which can never be complete, as any historian is bound to do. It emerges that Smith did not (usually) neglect or ride roughshod over the evidence as it was available to him, but rather that evidence about some aspects and periods of history simply did not then exist, leaving much in his account that is indeed pure conjecture. The focus of the paper is on Smith, not on contemporaries or predecessors who argued a similar case. It deals with the substance of Smith's case, not with priority.
    Keywords: Adam Smith, history, four stages, conjectural history
    JEL: B12
    Date: 2007–10
  2. By: Tomoyuki Uemiya (Postgraduate, Kwansei Gakuin University)
    Abstract: The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics (1881) has been influenced by various intellectual contemporaries through the ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’. Under the influence of Barratt, Edgeworth admitted the physical methods of ethics; which is clear from his adoption of the ‘Fechner’s Law’ to measure the quantity of pleasure. Through the analysis of the contract between egoistic agents, Edgeworth also attempted to prove the need of utilitarianism as the solution to Sicgwick’s ‘Dualism of Practical Reasons’. Since Edgeworth asserted that the capacity for pleasure is different among people, criticizing ‘equality’ tacitly implied in utilitarianism, he admitted ‘exact Utilitarianism’ which allowed unequal distribution as the ‘distributive justice’ for the greatest happiness of the society. Thus Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics is not only the economic but also ethical work influenced by ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy’.
    Keywords: F.Y. Edgeworth, Mathematical Psychics, Utilitarianism, the ‘Sidgwick-Barratt Controversy
    JEL: B13 B31
    Date: 2008–03
  3. By: Des Gasper
    Abstract: Denis Goulet (1931-2006) was a pioneer of human development theory and the main founder of work on “development ethics” as a self-conscious field that, by his definition, treats the ethical and value questions posed by development theory, planning, and practice. This paper looks at aspects of Goulet’s work in relation to four issues concerning the project of development ethics—[1] scope, [2] methodology, [3] roles, [4] organisational format and identity. It compares his views with subsequent trends in the field and suggests lessons for work on human development. [1] Goulet’s definition of the scope of development ethics remains serviceable and allows us to combine a view of it as social change ethics (including global change ethics) with yet a relatively specific primary audience of those who recognize themselves as working in development studies or development policy. [2] His approach in development ethics espoused intense existential immersion in each context and was often deeply illuminating, but was limited by the time and skills it requires and its relative disconnection from communicable theory. [3] Goulet wrote profoundly about ethics’ possible lines of influence, through prophetic force and more routinely through incorporation in methods, movements, and education. His own ideas did not become sufficiently embodied in methods and methodologies, but some have become so thanks to other authors. [4] Goulet saw development ethics as a new discipline or subdiscipline. However the required types of immersion, in particular contexts and/or in understanding and changing the methods and systems that structure routine practice, have to be undertaken by people coming from and remaining close to diverse disciplinary and professional backgrounds. Development ethics is and has to be, he gradually came to accept, not a distinct subdiscipline but an interdisciplinary field.
    Keywords: development ethics, Denis Goulet, human development, interdisciplinarity
    Date: 2008–02
  4. By: H. Peyton Young
    Abstract: A person is concerned about self-image if his utility function depends, not only on his actions, but also on his beliefs about what sort of person he is. This dual motivation problem makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for someone to learn who he really is based solely on his revealed behavior. Indeed, there are very simple situations, involving just two actions and two possible identities, such that, if there is any initial uncertainty about one's true identity, it will never be resolved even when one has an infinite number of opportunities to act.
    Keywords: Knowledge, Self-Signalling, Learning
    JEL: C70 D83
    Date: 2008
  5. By: Yuri Maksimenko
    Abstract: A hypothesis has been suggested for economics to become a natural science. The object of the science would be the system of reproduction of the life of people. The source of data would be the vague perceptions of experts. The instrument would be a language of generalized terms. The criterion of truth would be the consensus of opinions. The sphere of application would be the global economy. The method of application would be the proliferation of knowledge through the World Wide Web to produce social synergy forces within the economy.
    JEL: A10 A12 A13
    Date: 2008–03
  6. By: Joshua Aizenman; Kenneth Kletzer
    Abstract: The information content of academic citations is subject to debate. This paper views premature death as a tragic "natural experiment," outlining a methodology identifying the "citation death tax" -- the impact of death of productive economists on the patterns of their citations. We rely on a sample of 428 papers written by 16 well known economists who died well before retirement, during the period of 1975-97. The news is mixed: for half of the sample, we identify a large and significant "citation death tax" for the average paper written by these scholars. For these authors, the estimated average missing citations per paper attributed to premature death ranges from 40% to 140% (the overall average is about 90%), and the annual costs of lost citations per paper are in the range 3% and 14%. Hence, a paper written ten years before the author’s death avoids a citation cost that varies between 30% and 140%. For the other half of the sample, there is no citation death tax; and for two Nobel Prize-caliber scholars in this second group, Black and Tversky, citations took off overtime, reflecting the growing recognitions of their seminal works.
    JEL: B4 B54 C81 C92 L14
    Date: 2008–03
  7. By: Neil Shephard; Torben G. Andersen
    Abstract: In this paper we review the history and recent developments of stochastic volatility, which is the main way financial economists and mathematical finance specialists model time varying volatility.
    JEL: C01 C14 C32
    Date: 2008
  8. By: Carlo Vercellone (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - CNRS : UMR8174 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I)
    Abstract: Since the crisis of Fordism, capitalism has been characterised by the ever more central role of<br />knowledge and the rise of the cognitive dimensions of labour. This is not to say that the centrality<br />of knowledge to capitalism is new per se. Rather, the question we must ask is to what extent we can<br />speak of a new role for knowledge and, more importantly, its relationship with transformations in<br />the capital/labour relation. From this perspective, the paper highlights the continuing validity of<br />Marx’s analysis of the knowledge/power relation in the development of the division of labour. More<br />precisely, we are concerned with the theoretical and heuristic value of the concepts of formal<br />subsumption, real subsumption and general intellect for any interpretation of the present change of<br />the capital/labour relation in cognitive capitalism. In this way, we show the originality of the general<br />intellect hypothesis as a sublation of real subsumption. Finally, the article summarises key<br />contradictions and new forms of antagonism in cognitive capitalism.
    Keywords: crisis; division of labour; knowledge; formal subsumption; real subsumption; general intellect; cognitive capitalism; diffuse intellectuality
    Date: 2007–03

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