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Abstraction and unrealistic assumptions in economics

Steven Rappaport

Journal of Economic Methodology, 1996, vol. 3, issue 2, 215-236

Abstract: Economics has been persistently criticized for its heavy reliance on unrealistic assumptions. Some people reply to this criticism by saying that the unrealistic assumptions of economics result from abstraction from unimportant details, and abstraction is necessary for knowledge of a complex real world. So, far from unrealistic assumptions detracting from the epistemic worth of economics, such assumptions are essential for economic knowledge. I call this line of argument 'the Abstractionist Defense'. After clarifying abstraction, unrealistic assumptions and kindred notions, I show that the Abstractionist Defense does not successfully rebut the position of those who criticize economics for its unrealistic assumptions.

Keywords: abstraction; idealizations; unrealistic assumptions; the Direct Method of testing; the Indirect Method of testing; the Abstractionist Defense (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1996
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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:3:y:1996:i:2:p:215-236