Universität Wien

040049 SE Philosophy and Economics (MA) (2021W)

Truth, Precision and Certainty; Formal Methods in Economic Theory Seminar Masterprogramm

4.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 4 - Wirtschaftswissenschaften
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 25 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

The format is subject to change. At the moment, we plan to hold all meetings online.

Wednesday 06.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 13.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 20.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 27.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 03.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 10.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 17.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 24.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 01.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 15.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 12.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 19.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Wednesday 26.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Mayer and other authors claim that scientists face a trade-off between truth and relevance on the one hand, and precision and rigour on the other hand. According to Mayer and other critics, an excessive over-formalization of mainstream economics has driven the discipline towards an exaggerated emphasis on precision and rigour, thereby neglecting truth and relevance of economic theories. The seminar will start by introducing students to some of the problems and arguments in these debates, using Mayer (1992) and other readings. Subsequently, four clusters of concepts and positions will be rationally reconstructed and critically assessed: (1) truth, (2) realism, hypotheticism, and instrumentalism, (3) economic models, (4) formalization and the use of formal methods. Special attention will be paid to explications of different uses of some of the key-terms in these debates.
By discussing different epistemological and methodological views regarding human knowledge diligent students will learn to make sense of the theoretical problems and their historical background as well as to evaluate the achievements and main criticisms proposed in different debates.
Teaching consists in one unbroken 90-minute seminar, in which usually one or two texts are critically discussed. The language of discussion is English, though German is welcome as well, depending on the texts discussed. Students are required to prepare for every meeting on the basis of obligatory readings.

Assessment and permitted materials

Basis of Evaluation
Efforts of students are evaluated on the basis of critical contributions to discussions (30%), talks (‘kick-off presentations’, 10%), seminar papers (25%), and written answers to weekly assignments (35%). Written answers to questions, talks and seminar papers are evaluated according to the clarity, precision, logical structure and completeness regarding the problems and arguments discussed.

The exact weights of these activities for the composition of the final grade will be announced during the first class meeting.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Rewards and Requirements
In order to conclude this seminar successfully students have to provide one 10 min talk and hand in a short seminar paper of about 5000 words; they also have to hand in answers to questions assigned on a weekly basis (usually ~400 words) and contribute in a lively manner to discussions at all classes. Written answers, talks and seminar papers are evaluated according to the clarity, precision, logical structure, and completeness regarding the problems and arguments discussed. Weekly assignments and seminar papers can be in English as well as in German. By registering for this course/seminar, you tacitly agree to having all your electronic submissions checked by Turnitin.

Examination topics

Subjects of Examinations
Problems discussed in questions, talks and seminar papers

Reading list

Thomas Mayer - Truth versus Precision in Economics (Elgar).
Further readings to be announced and will be provided via Moodle.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Fr 12.05.2023 00:12