Experiments without concrete. The case of economics

Publication Type:


Olga Koshovets
Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Economic Forecasting, Russian Academy of Sciences
Taras Varkhotov
Lomonosov Moscow State University
Issue number: 
No. 3 (Vol. 49)

The article examines the question whether the economic discipline can be regarded as a kind of natural science it strives to be, taking into consideration the interpretation of an economic model as a kind of a thought experiment and closer connection between thought experiment and experimentation. The authors turn to epistemological analysis of thought experiments both in natural sciences and in economics and consider the historical background of this research tool and its relations with the experimentation practice. The study shows that the use of thought experiments in the economic theory and in natural sciences are fundamentally different. In natural science the thought experiment has never been detached from the material experimentation. On contrary, in economics it is used as an isolated procedure. However, isolated thought experiment is not a full-fledged research tool for studying the reality, as in that case it will affect some troubles with realism and practical efficiency of the research results. Rather, it constitutes the instrument for structuring or «mapping» the field of inquiry and can give results with social-constructive capacities.

experiment, thought experiment, reality, economic model, economic theory, natural science, economics

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