Economics Working Papers

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This paper reviews the debate in economics over neuroeconomics’ contribution to economics. It distinguishes majority and minority views, argues that this debate has been framed by mainstream economics’ conception of itself as an isolated science, and argues that this framing has put off the agenda in economics issues such as individual identity that are increasingly important in connection with the social and historical context of economic explanations in a changing complex world. The paper first discusses how the debate over neuroeconomics has been limited to the question of what information from other sciences might be employed in economics. It then goes on to the individual identity issue, and discusses how economics’ top-down, closed character generates a circular individual identity conception, while bottom-up, open character of psychology and neuroscience, and their continual concern with the changing relation between theory and evidence, has produced four competing individual identity conceptions in neuroeconomic research.


1This paper was presented at the Duke University Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory 12 April 2013 in substantially different form and subsequently circulated as “Neuroeconomics and Identity” ( I thank Roy Weintraub, Kevin Hoover, and members of the audience for their comments and kind attention. I also thank Roberto Fumagalli, Wade Hands, Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, and Nicolas Vallois for their helpful comments leading to this very much revised version of the paper.

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