Topics for Paper #2

According to the syllabus, the second paper of the semester is due on Thursday, March 10, but I am going to postpone the due date until Thursday, March 31. This will give you lots more time to assimilate the issues concerning Popper, Lakatos, and Kuhn, which I would like to be central in your papers, but it shortens the time between the second and third papers. The paper should be roughly 5 pages or 1300 words in length.

The topics below are all focused on philosophy of science (in many cases with applications to economics) rather than on detailed methodological peculiarities of economics. It is fine if you write on some other relevant topic. But if you want to write on any topic other than those listed below, please come talk with me first. Not every topic is suitable or manageable.

1. Write an essay examining the way that Popper, Friedman, or Mill would criticize one of the other two theorists, and (if possible) illustrate and adjudicate the disagreements with the help of examples from economics. (This last suggestion won't be feasible for those of you who haven't studied economics.) Be sure to lay out both the position being criticized and the criticism as clearly and precisely as possible, and to the extent that you can draw your own conclusions concerning whether the criticisms are correct.

2. Lakatos maintains that Popper is somewhere between a naive and a sophisticated methodological falsificationist. Look carefully at "Conjectures and Refutations" and Lakatos' characterization of "dogmatic falsificationism," "naive methodological falsificationism" and "sophisticated methodological falsificationism" and discuss whether Lakatos' interpretation captures the position Popper takes in this essay.

3. Lakatos' methodology of scientific research programmes (MSRPs) is designed to repair the flaws in Popper's philosophy identified by Kuhn. Does he succeed? Does MSRP capture Kuhn's insights concerning the overall structure and development of science, while preserving Popper's view that science advances our knowledge? What are the crucial disagreements between Lakatos and Kuhn?

4. Blaug argues that MSRP fits a good deal of economics, and that it certainly fits economics a great deal better than Kuhn's view of scientific revolutions. Drawing on what you know of economics, do you think he is right?

5. In Chapter 3 and especially in section 7.1 of Chapter 7, Hands gives his appraisal of Popperian (including Lakatosian) philosophical views and their fruitfulness as applied to economics. You might want to write an essay discussing whether you agree with Hands, whether his interpretation of Popper or Lakatos captures what the were really trying to say, or whether some defense of Popper or Lakatos is possible.