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The Epistemological and Statistical Limits of the Economic Sciences in Identifying Causalities


This research project explores the underlying limits—especially of the social and economic sciences—in identifying causalities including, among other aspects, the strong epistemological and statistical limitations of and assumptions behind the methods applied.

Most scholars in the 21st century hold onto the belief that we can establish generalisable causalities in the social world and make robust predictions about human behavior and social and economic outcomes. Nancy Cartwright has made contributions in shifting the causation debate away from universal methods and laws towards a pluralism of causal methods and laws, illustrating that for example in using randomized experiments in social and economic sciences we are largely confined to identifying local or situation-specific causalities. Though, with Cartwright’s insights we are still left with a large black box in understanding a number of important epistemic and methodological assumptions that are implicitly used by scholars in pursuit of causal identification. This research project aims to stimulate debate among applied researchers and policymakers applying causal research to inform policy and to address the gaps in the causation literature and provide novel insight into the following question: what are the underlying limits—especially of the social and economic sciences—in identifying causalities including, among other aspects, the strong epistemological and statistical limitations of and assumptions behind the methods applied.