BOOK: The Foundations of Evolutionary Economics by Carsten Herrmann-Pillathn

From Chapter One, “Ontology”:

Evolution is emerging as a central theoretical term bridging mainstream and heterodox economics. This points towards the naturalization of economics.  However, in spite of the adherence to physicalist models in mainstream economics, it remains essentially a Geisteswissenschaft, because its underlying theory of mind is mentalistic, in the sense of Cartesian dualism. This chapter develops the ontological foundations of a naturalization program for economics which overcomes the divide between the Geisteswissenschaften and the Naturwissenschaften. I argue that a foundational program in economics needs to adopt a principled approach in the sense of Einstein’s. Thus, I gather a set of impossibility theorems which have to be observed by any kind of economic theory. The central theorems are Hayek’s theorem on the impossibility of a complete self-explanation of the brain as a physical system, and Wittgenstein’s theorem on the impossibility of a private language. Both theorems imply an externalistic theory of mind. I further introduce the ontological distinction between observer independent and observer relative facts, which I equate with the distinction between objects and signs. The notion of the ‘observer’ is a naturalized one, so that it is not confined to human and hence, mental observers, but refers to a universal kind of physical process.


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