Economics and Philosophy

Essay

A RESPONSE TO DASGUPTA1

HILARY PUTNAMa1 and VIVIAN WALSHa2

a1 Harvard University

a2 Muhlenberg College

The present note will be concerned only with Sir Partha Dasgupta's recent article in this journal (Dasgupta 2005). What is more, it will concentrate on those parts of the article which contain a serious misreading of Hilary Putnam's position on the entanglement of facts, theories and values. These philosophical matters can perhaps be clarified for economist readers (they should require no clarification for philosophers) by considering, to begin with, Dasgupta's interpretation of the Bergson–Samuelson position. What (Bergson) Burk (1938) and Samuelson (1947) were doing, according to Dasgupta, was to establish ‘the ethical foundations of the subject. . .over five decades ago’ (Dasgupta 2005: 221–2).2 Thus a major theme of the article is heard at once: economics is supposedly based on sound ethical foundations, and these can be traced (it is supposed) to specific work written long ago, and hence needing no augmentation. These ethical foundations, it is claimed, ‘are now regarded to be a settled matter’ (2005: 222).

Footnotes

1 We plan to publish elsewhere, in due course, a longer examination of Dasgupta's past and present positions on these and other issues.