•  249
    This chapter explores the idea of one variable making a causal contribution to another variable, and how this idea applies to economics. It also explores the related concept of what-if questions in economics. In particular, it contrasts the modular theory of causal contributions and what-if questions (advocated by interventionists) with the ceteris paribus theory (advocated by Jim Heckman and others). It notes a problem with the modular theory raised by Nancy Cartwright. And it notes how, accord…Read more
  •  180
    A good definition of process tracing should highlight what is distinctive about process tracing as a methodology of causal inference. I look at eight criteria that are used to define process tracing in the methodological literature, and I dismiss all eight criteria as unhelpful (some because they are too restrictive, and others because they are vacuous). In place of these criteria, I propose four alternative criteria, and I draw a distinction between process tracing for the ultimate aim of testi…Read more
  •  248
    Functionalism and the role of psychology in economics
    Journal of Economic Methodology 27 (4): 292-310. 2020.
    Should economics study the psychological basis of agents’ choice behaviour? I show how this question is multifaceted and profoundly ambiguous. There is no sharp distinction between ‘mentalist’ answ...
  •  569
    The Correlation Argument for Reductionism
    Philosophy of Science 86 (1): 76-97. 2019.
    Reductionists say things like: all mental properties are physical properties; all normative properties are natural properties. I argue that the only way to resist reductionism is to deny that causation is difference making (thus making the epistemology of causation a mystery) or to deny that properties are individuated by their causal powers (thus making properties a mystery). That is to say, unless one is happy to deny supervenience, or to trivialize the debate over reductionism. To show this, …Read more
  •  451
    Multi-Level Selection and the Explanatory Value of Mathematical Decompositions
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (4): 1025-1055. 2016.
    Do multi-level selection explanations of the evolution of social traits deepen the understanding provided by single-level explanations? Central to the former is a mathematical theorem, the multi-level Price decomposition. I build a framework through which to understand the explanatory role of such non-empirical decompositions in scientific practice. Applying this general framework to the present case places two tasks on the agenda. The first task is to distinguish the various ways of suppressing…Read more
  •  928
    Neuroeconomics and Confirmation Theory
    Philosophy of Science 81 (2): 195-215. 2014.
    Neuroeconomics is a research programme founded on the thesis that cognitive and neurobiological data constitute evidence for answering economic questions. I employ confirmation theory in order to reject arguments both for and against neuroeconomics. I also emphasize that some arguments for neuroeconomics will not convince the skeptics because these arguments make a contentious assumption: economics aims for predictions and deep explanations of choices in general. I then argue for neuroeconomics …Read more
  •  445
    The explanatory virtue of abstracting away from idiosyncratic and messy detail
    Philosophical Studies 173 (6): 1429-1449. 2016.
    Some explanations are relatively abstract: they abstract away from the idiosyncratic or messy details of the case in hand. The received wisdom in philosophy is that this is a virtue for any explanation to possess. I argue that the apparent consensus on this point is illusory. When philosophers make this claim, they differ on which of four alternative varieties of abstractness they have in mind. What’s more, for each variety of abstractness there are several alternative reasons to think that the …Read more
  •  786
    Preferences and Positivist Methodology in Economics
    Philosophy of Science 83 (2): 192-212. 2016.
    I distinguish several doctrines that economic methodologists have found attractive, all of which have a positivist flavour. One of these is the doctrine that preference assignments in economics are just shorthand descriptions of agents' choice behaviour. Although most of these doctrines are problematic, the latter doctrine about preference assignments is a respectable one, I argue. It doesn't entail any of the problematic doctrines, and indeed it is warranted independently of them.
  •  395
    Some explanations in social science, psychology and biology belong to a higher level than other explanations. And higher explanations possess the virtue of abstracting away from the details of lower explanations, many philosophers argue. As a result, these higher explanations are irreplaceable. And this suggests that there are genuine higher laws or patterns involving social, psychological and biological states. I show that this ‘abstractness argument’ is really an argument schema, not a single …Read more