The aim of this article is to show that Veblen and Commons’ Institutional Economics is an original translation of philosophical pragmatism in social science. The link between pragmatism and institutionalism is analyzed at two relied levels: the first concerns the conception of science and reality; the second concerns the conception of economic rationality and human behavior in society. We underline that the pragmatist vision about processes of thought linked to action and experience imply a renewal of the method as well as the subject of knowledge in economics, renewal which is characteristic of old institutionalism.
This paper argues that Rawls’ original position entails an inadequate conception of knowledge and enquires how this affects the robustness of the the impartiality model. A view of knowledge as separate and detachable from (a too independent) mind as it appears in the original position is contrasted with a more constitutive approach Rawls has had in his first article Outline for a decision Procedure in Ethics. There, the competent judges are intellectually virtuous rather than simple possessors of knowledge. First, I argue that a more constitutive approach is inconsistent with the requirement of symmetry and that even if Rawls implicitly recognizes it in Political Liberalism, he will not however revise, and consequently weaken, the original position requirements. Secondly, a view of an independent mind affects the original position: presented as a guide of reasoning it specifies not only how to conduct our judgement but also which knowledge is permitted to us and which is disallowed. But if direct doxastic voluntarism is false the original position simply could not guide our reasoning this way. Therefore, provided that arguments of the paper hold, the original position could hardly succeed in expressing the pure procedural justice.
Davidson has shown that there is a connection between intrapersonal and interpersonal comparisons, while at the same time arguing that they overlap and mutually determine one other. This paper shall show that the eminently social character of thought and language requires to consider knowledge of “self,” and in particular, the fact that intrapersonal comparisons have to be treated as the outcome of a context, of a bundle of distinct beliefs but also of a contact with others. Nonetheless, access to my own thoughts, and hence to my intrapersonal comparisons, involves only myself, and I know better than anyone what I think. How then can I come to know the others’ minds and embark upon interpersonal comparisons? Here two elements will be distinguished: the first consists in considering the other as to a great extent sharing beliefs similar to my own, allowing me to compare the other to myself on the basis of my own intrapersonal comparisons; the second relates to language, and bids us to be charitable towards the other and to consider that he is generally right about his beliefs and thoughts, as I am myself.