Document Type

Contribution to Book



Format of Original

22 p.

Publication Date



Oxford University Press

Source Publication

The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Economic Science

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195189254.001.0001


This article characterizes the Homo economicus conception in terms of three linked properties that are central to it as an atomist conception. On the standard view, individuals: have exogenous preferences; interact only (or almost only) in an indirect manner with one another through the price mechanism; and are unaffected in these two respects by the aggregate effects of their interaction with one another. The new research programs differ in how objectionable they find each of these properties, as befits their different commitments to synchronic or diachronic forms of explanation. Furthermore, this article reviews the role of synchronic and diachronic types of explanations in the possible emergence of a new general research program, discusses embedded individual microfoundations for that general program, and closes with speculations regarding the role of thinking about individuals in a future synthesis of the new research programs.


Published version. "Competing Conceptions of the Individual in Recent Economics," in The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Economic Science. Eds. Don Ross and Harold Kincaid. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009: 223-244. DOI. © 2009 Oxford University Press. Used with permission.

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