Pragmatism is currently one of the most active fields of communication between philosophers and economists. It inspires works in social justice, ethics and economic methodology. Pragmatism was never well received by French economists. The work of Henri Guitton in the 1950s is one of few French contributions to pragmatism in economics. The study of his work and of his antecedents brings to light the cultural and political causes of this cold reception.
Hayek’s ideas in economics and social philosophy are weel known and have already been thoroughly explored, but his ideas in epistemology and methodology have not. In particular, what Hayek calls ” antiphysicalism ” in social sciences needs much more analysis if we are to understand why Hayek states that economics cannot and should not be regarded as a ” social physics “. I will precisely analyse this thesis putting to work all of Hayek’s writings dealing with epistemological and methodological queries, and especially in reference to his work in neuropsychology (The Sensory Order, 1952). I will systematically reconstruct Hayek’s economic methodology and show that, as a whole, it is a genuine inference, the first premisse being based on a ” theory of economic knowledge “, the second one on a ” constructivist ontology of social reality “, and the conclusive argument being methodological dualism-but, perhaps surprisingly, a weak one.
The paper discusses the basis of the experimental method in general, its adaptation to the study of economic phenomena, and the recent philosophical thoughts on the nature of laboratory experiments. It also inventories the main experimental procedures that characterize best practices of economists—some of them quite ingenious—by drawing a parallel with what distinguishes them from former practices established by psychologists. In particular, the issue of monetary incentives is carefully examined. The paper emphasizes the immense progress that has been accomplished in a few decades while taking into account the disagreements that still persist between some experimentalists and the ongoing existence of some important “open” questions. In this regard, the paper tries to clarify a major methodological questioning which only recently has been approached more seriously: the issue of “external validity” of experimental results (i.e., their “generalizability” to the outside world).