1893 Course I - Philosophy of Economics
ao.Univ.Prof. Dr. Gabriele Mras
Contact details
  • Type
  • Weekly hours
  • Language of instruction
09/13/21 to 10/03/21
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Subject(s) Bachelor Programs
Day Date Time Room
Thursday 10/07/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM Online-Einheit
Thursday 10/14/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM Online-Einheit
Thursday 10/21/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM Online-Einheit
Saturday 10/23/21 12:00 PM - 03:00 PM Online-Einheit
Thursday 10/28/21 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM Online-Einheit
Thursday 11/11/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM Online-Einheit
Thursday 11/18/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM D4.0.136
Thursday 11/25/21 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM Online-Einheit


This course has 2 parts. In the first part methodological considerations concerning the possibility of justifying scientific investigations will be presented — or rather repeated and enriched for those of you, who have attended the “Logic and Methodology”-course. In the scond, the main part, we will apply these considerations onto theories of economics. 

To get a little bit more into detail: In part A of this course we will look at different conceptions of “confirmation” in the 20th century and the various obstacles, which arise, if principles such as “verifiability” and “falsifiability” are to be applied. We will read and discuss Rudolf Carnap's account of a „prognosis“, as singular sentence inferred from a hypothesis (which is rule-like), as well as Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos' criticism of "naive ideas of  falsification"; i.e. the infamous problem of „the empirical basis“. A brief overview of 21st century accounts in the philosophy of science will be provided, too: van Fraassen‘s „constructive empiricism“ and accounts in the tradition of Lipton‘s „instrumentalism“. 

In the second part of this course, part B, we will pursue accounts in the philosophy of economics and their development in the 20th century. „How are theories in economics confirmed?”, “What are the premises or axioms of theories in economics?”, what is the understanding of ‚cause‘, ‚laws‘, ‚explanation’in economics?“ , “are theories in econimics normative?”, “should they be”, — will be our guiding questions here. 

Learning outcomes

Participants of this course are supposed to get familiar with the nature of scientific knowledge; at the end of this course one ought to be able to analyse and evaluate different approaches in economics. 


Attendance requirements

This course is designed as blended learning course: attendance is reduced to 50% = the whole first part will be a study phase of texts, supported by study questions and a scriptum and snchron meetings. However: Online attendance is required for the very first session. 

The course is a PI course, which means that in part B continuous assessment of student performance is carried out. Students will answer Clicker and/or checkbox surveys and show further active participation (e.g. through presentations and participating in discussions). The online “presence” of students will be checked through the activities of the students.


Teaching/learning method(s)

The course will take place in part A as Distance Learning course in which a self study phase constitutes part A and then a in-class presence or an online presence phase will follow (depending on the health restrictions). 

The course starts with an online presence lecture (course information). In the following sessions, students will get input on theory (Carnap, Neurath, Popper, Lakatos, van Fraassen, Lipton, Mill, Davidson, Lewis) via texts and slides, while the presence online phase in the last two sessions  is devoted to the application of these methodological considerations. Assignments for the online phases will be explained and discussed in the first session.

During the part A, students will have to turn in assignments and will receive e-mails reminding them of the assignments. Based on the theory input which is available as slide presentation with audio comment on MyLEARN, they study texts as bases of application and analysis. Multiple Choice (MC) tests serve as self-assessment and help deepening and structuring the learning experience. For the MC tests related to confirmation theory students will receive automated feedback. Written, personal feedback from the lecturer may be provided for open assignments. Students can discuss the outcomes of the assignments with supervisors in a forum on MyLEARN. Experiences from the online phases will be taken up in the presence lectures before the next theoretical topic is started.

As a collaborative product of the course, students will work on a glossary of philosophical terms (“logical reduction to observation sentences”, “eliminative inference”, “evidence”, „empirical content“, „counterfactuals“ etc.) .

In part B, we will discuss different conceptions of scientific investigations (the “material” will be 20th century theories in economics that have an explicit connection to Logical Empiricism, Critical Rationalism and Instrumentalism - such as the mentioned above). Communication in the course will be in person or via the synchronous three final sessions, during „office hours“ + MyLEARN forum, e-mail.



Assessment Criteria:

  1. MC test (has to be positive for a positive grade for the whole course but the test will not be difficult)
  2. Assignments Open questions ("question to be considered")  
  3. Glossary (in groups)
  4. Short discussion paper 

 Points in total 200 :

Excellent (1): 182 - 200 points , in between 181/182:  1-2
Good (2): 160 - 181 points,  in between 159 / 160: 2-3
Satisfactory (3): 120 - 159 points
Sufficient (4): 80 - 119 points
Fail (5): 0 - 79 points

Three Assignments ( not graded in 1 -5): max 60 points 

One Glossary Entry in Groups of 3  (not graded in 1 - 5): 20 points

One individual short paper: max 60 points

MC Test: max 60 points

MC Test:

Excellent (1): 52 - 60 points
Good (2): 42 - 55 points
Satisfactory (3): 30 - 42 points
Sufficient (4): 22 - 30 points
Fail (5): <22


Recommended previous knowledge and skills

LV "Logic and methodology of social sciences"

Availability of lecturer(s)

ao.Univ.Prof.Dr. Gabriele M. Mras
Building D4, 3rd floor, room number D4.3.020
Tel.: 01-31336-4257

Administration: Bettina Gerdenich
Tel.: 01-31336-4166



Some more information concerning LearnWU: 

a. the text in "Confirmation-Theory Summary" and will cover  the part of this course on confirmation theory b. the “lecture slides” in addition the part of John Stuart Mill. c. in “assignments” ( “assignment 1” ... ) you will find a number of open questions to be answered weekly. Please upload your answers as an extra file in “Assignments/Aufgaben”. Deadline? See "assignment 1" /"Aufgaben", c. in “paper topics” you will find the paper topics for the last two sessions before the MC test. Please upload your paper in “Dateiablage” (When? The latest : 1 day before the discussion/presentation).  d. Attention: Inform me/us in “Foren” about the paper topic you have chosen:  Name – Text – Date (two weeks after course-beginning the latest).

MC Test

The MC/SC test will take place at the very last session of this course via LEARN in the course: 1893 Course I - Philosophy: Logic and Ethics.  

Duration: 1 hour, 60 questions, the questions will be MC and SC questions.

The „examination statement“ will be activated 30 minutes before the start of the exam. You will be asked to read it and you have to confirm it. 

In case of internet issues during the exam, please send us an email with the subject “interruption” or „error”. PLEASE be aware that you have to document the problem in question. Tel.Nr. 01-313364257 (I am present during the exam, i.e. also reachable). Otherwise:

ATTENTION: The final exam has to be positive for the grade of the whole course to be positive. In the case of an unexplained absence it will not (!) only be graded as having received 0 points!

Unit details

Unit Date Contents
1 07.10.2021: 18:00-21:00

Intro into class, administrative details, course overview;

We will "meet" via Zoom.

2 14.10.2021: 18:00-21:00



1. The idea of confirmation vs. the aim of proving a theory to be true.

  • The "Vienna Circle" and the principle of verifiability.
  • What is verifiability? What are singular consequences of hypothetical statements? What is meant by "reduction of general sentence to observational sentences"?
  • What are the basic properties of observation sentences or "protocol sentences"?

2. The distinction between meaningful and meaningless sentences.

  • Rudolf Carnap's criticism of metaphysics.
  • The "protocol sentence-debate" in the mid-30ies of the 20th century.


  • Carnap, R.: The Vienna Circle. in: Schilpp P. A. (Ed.): The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, Cambridge University Press 1887, p. 20-34.
  • Carnap, R.: What is Logical Analysis of Science? in: Hanfling O. (Ed.): Essential Readings in Logical Positivism; Oxford 1981, p. 112-129.
  • Carnap, R.: The Unity of Science; Bristol 1995, p. 42-52.
  • Carnap, R.: On Protocol Sentences. in: Noûs, Vol. 21, No. 4, Dedication: To Alberto Coffa (Dec., 1987) Blackwell, pp. 457-470.
  • Neurath, O.: Protokollsätze; in. ders.: Erkenntnis Band 3, 1932, S. 399-211.
  • Schlick,M: The Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle, in: Sarkar, Sahotra, (Ed.): The Emergence of Logical Empiricism: from 1900 to the Vienna Circle, New York : Garland Publishing 1996, p. 321-340.
  • Stroud, B.: Causation; in: Engagement and Metaphysical Dissatisfaction. Modality and Value; Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 2011, p. 20-58.
  • Passmore, J: Logical Positivism; in: P. Edwards (Ed.).: The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 5, New York: Macmill 1967, p. 52-57.
3 21.10.2021: 18:00-21:00


1. Karl Popper's principle of falsifiability.

  • Falsifiability in contrast to verifiability.
  • What is the problem of the "demarcation principle" as suggested by the "Vienna Circle"?
  • What is modus tollens?

2. The Problem of The Empirical Basis

  • What are "basic sentences"?
  • The distinction between justified, true, verified, falsified, verifiable, falsifiable, corroborated scientific statements.
  • The theory / observation dichotomy.
  • Is Popper's method of “falsifiability” really so much better than “verifiability”?



4 23.10.2021: 12:00-15:00




  • Davidson, D.: Causal Relations; in: Davidson, D.: Essays on Actions and Events; Oxford University Press Oxford 1980; p. 149-162.
  • Lewis, D.: Causal Explanation; in: Philosophical Papers. Volume II; Chapter 22; Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 1986; p. 214-240.
  • Lewis, D.: Causation; in: The Journal of Philosophy, Volume 70, Issue 17, Seventieth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division, 1973, p. 556-567.
  • Mill J.S.: Of the law of universal Causation; in: Mill J.S.: A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Routledge, London, Book III, Chapter V, p. 327-334, p. 388-406.
  • Mill J.S.: Of Abstraction, or the Formation of Conceptions; in: Mill J.S.: A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Liberty Fund, Canada, Book III, Chapter V, p. 649- 662, p.735-830.
5 28.10.2021: 18:00-20:00

MC Test

    6 11.11.2021: 18:00-21:00



    7 18.11.2021: 18:00-21:00


    ATTENTION: we will meet in person at WU.


      8 18.11.2021: 18:00-21:00


        9 25.11.2021: 18:00-21:00

        ATTENTION: We will meet in person at WU


        Last edited: 2022-02-17