Economics, Agency, and Causal Explanation

In Peter Róna & László Zsolnai (eds.), Agency and Causal Explanation in Economics. Springer Verlag. pp. 53-67 (2020)
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The paper considers three questions. First, what is the connection between economics and agency? It is argued that causation and explanation in economics fundamentally depend on agency. So a philosophical understanding of economic explanation must be sensitive to an understanding of agency. Second, what is the connection between agency and causation? A causal view of agency-involving explanation is defended against a number of arguments from the resurgent noncausalist tradition in the literature on agency and action-explanation. If agency is fundamental to economic explanation, it is argued, then so is causation. Third, what is the connection between causal explanation and the natural sciences? It is argued that, though the explanations given in economics and other social sciences are causal explanations, they are different in kind from the causal explanations of the natural sciences. On the one hand, then, the causal explanations of the social sciences are irreducible to those found in the natural sciences. On the other hand, the causal relations described by the social sciences are not completely autonomous; they do not float free of, or operate independently from, the causal relations charted by the natural sciences.

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William Child
Oxford University


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