1504 Course I - Philosophy of Economics
ao.Univ.Prof. Dr. Gabriele Mras
Contact details
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
09/05/23 to 09/29/23
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Subject(s) Bachelor Programs
Day Date Time Room
Wednesday 10/04/23 05:30 PM - 08:00 PM D4.0.019
Wednesday 10/11/23 05:30 PM - 08:30 PM D4.0.019
Wednesday 10/18/23 05:30 PM - 08:30 PM D4.0.133
Saturday 10/21/23 12:00 PM - 05:00 PM Online-Einheit
Wednesday 10/25/23 05:30 PM - 09:30 PM D4.0.133
Wednesday 11/08/23 05:30 PM - 06:30 PM Online-Einheit
Wednesday 11/15/23 05:30 PM - 09:30 PM D4.0.019

This course is a course in philosophy of economics. The course consists of two 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 last summer term. We will begin with different versions of “confirmation-theories”, continue with Imre Lakatos' criticism of  falsificationism, and will discuss then van Fraassen‘s „constructive empiricism“ or accounts in the tradition of Lipton‘s „instrumentalism“. For part 1 audio lectures will be available (from last summer), slides, and a scriptum. Weekly assignments + written feedback will ensure that you stay "on board".

In the second part we will have a look at how these methodological consideration are applied in theories of economics, or: we will look at theories of economics from a methodological point of view — only: „Is economics and inductive science or a deductive one or neither/nor?"

    What is the view by someone like J.St. Mill, or the Austrian School of Economics, or Milton Friedman?  "How are theories in economics thought to be confirmable? What exactly are the premises of theories in economics — are they axioms, synthetic a priori statements, generalizations? „Are there strict laws in economics or just tendencies?" "What is the understanding of ‚cause‘, ‚laws‘, ‚explanation’ in economics?” , “Are theories in economics normative?”, “... should they be ...? ”, — all these questions will be our guiding questions. We will pursue these by going through the most prominent accounts in the philosophy of economics of the late 19th century and the 20th century: John Stuart Mill, D. Hausman on Mill, the Austrian School of Economics (Menger, Mises), the Chicago School (Knight, Friedman), critics of the Chicago School like Blaug, Krugman, and alternative and more recent accounts in the science of economics. Attention (again): Since this is not a course in the history of economical theory all these approaches will be looked at from a methodological point exclusively.

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% which means for this course that a part of part 1 will be a self study part (self study supported by study questions and a scriptum and slides and audios … ). The one Saturday you find in the syllabus is devoted to self study only! However: 100% attendance in class is required for part 2. 


Teaching/learning method(s)

The course is a blended learning course.

It will have as part 1 a self study phase and then a part with obligatory in-class presence. 

The course starts with a presence lecture (course information)In the following sessions, students will get input on theory ("laws" "ceteris parishes clauses", "tendencies", “logical reduction to observation sentences”, “eliminative inference”, “evidence”, „empirical content“, „counterfactuals“ etc., ) via texts, audios, and slides, while the presence phase in the last sessions is devoted to the application of methodological considerations. The tasks in the self-study phase will be explained and discussed in the very first session. During the part 1, you will turn in assignments, will receive e-mails reminding you of the assignments, Based on the theory input through the presence lectures + available as slide presentation with audio comment on Canvas, you should become familiar with modern methodological considerations. A Multiple Choice (MC) test serves as assessment of part 1. Written, personal feedback from me in respect to the weekly assignments will be (hopefully) of help in the preparation for the MC test. You can in addition discuss the outcomes of the assignments with me in the foren on Canvas — or in my office hours. 

Part B is your „stage“: In part B, we will discuss different conceptions of the nature of an economic theory. As a collaborative product of this course, you will work on a presentation. Communication in respect to these presentations will be offered in person during „office hours“ + Canvas forum, e-mail, online meetings. 



Assessment Criteria:

  1. 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) : these are individual assignemnts
  3. Short discussion paper: in groups (3 members max). 

 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: max 60 points (individual task)

One short paper: max 80 points (group task)

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



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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 in the middle of this course. Duration: 1 hour, 60 questions, the questions will be MC and SC questions. 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 04.10.2023: 17:30-20:00

Intro into class, administrative details, course overview;


  • The Guardian: Philosophy of science isn't pointless chin-stroking – it makes us better scientists;
  • Stemwedel, J.D.: What is philosophy of science (and should scientists care)? 7. April 2014.
2 11.10.2023: 17:30-20:30


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. (only 3)
  • Carnap, R.: On Protocol Sentences. in: Noûs, Vol. 21, No. 4, Dedication: To Alberto Coffa (Dec., 1987) Blackwell, pp. 457-470. (only pages 457, 458, 462 and 463)
  • Carnap, R.: What is Logical Analysis of Science? in: Hanfling O. (Ed.): Essential Readings in Logical Positivism; Oxford 1981, p. 112-129. (only I and III)
  • Stroud, B.: Causation; in: Engagement and Metaphysical Dissatisfaction. Modality and Value; Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 2011, p. 20-58.

Additional Readings: (if you are interested)

  • Hume, D.: Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Understanding; in: Hume, D.: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; LA Salle (Illinois) 1990, p. 71-83. (this is an important text about induction and causal necessity)
  • Carnap, R.: The Unity of Science; Bristol 1995, p. 42-52.
  • 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.
  • Passmore, J: Logical Positivism; in: P. Edwards (Ed.).: The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 5, New York: Macmill 1967, p. 52-57.
  • Phillips, A.W.: The Relation Between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wage Rates in the United Kingdom, 1861-1957; in: Economica; Vol. 25, No. 10, Nov. 1958, p. 283-299.
3 18.10.2023: 17:30-20:30


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 21.10.2023: 12:00-17:00




  • 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 25.10.2023: 17:30-21:30




ATTENTION: we will meet in person at WU.


6 08.11.2023: 17:30-18:30

MC Test

    7 15.11.2023: 17:30-21:30


      8 15.11.2023: 17:30-21:30


      Last edited: 2023-10-20