I am an economist. I hold a B.A. and M.A. in economics and this year I will be starting my Ph.D. studies in economics at UC Berkeley. Yet I spent last year studying philosophy (M.Sc. in Philosophy of the Social Sciences) at the LSE.

Many people ask me why have I decided to study philosophy whereas I want to work as an economist? To be clear, I do intend to speak in the language of economics, engage in the discipline-relevant questions and become a mainstream economics researcher. Well then, why study philosophy? The reason is simple. Philosophical questions are embedded in any social science and, particularly in economics. Even though philosophers are the ones usually engaging with the subject, economists cannot stay indifferent regarding philosophical issues underlying their field of study. I think any well-trained economist should i) thoroughly develop her skills in normative analysis and ii) be conscious of the limits and strengths of her toolkit.

Economics is generally regarded as a normative-free social science. Yet this is not accurate. For most of the relevant questions and answers in economics are bounded by normative commitments. The only way for such statement to be true, will necessarily involve stripping off relevant part of the economist’ most basic toolkit (e.g., interpersonal comparisons of welfare) and demanding economics to be silent about important questions that now belong to the discipline’s paradigm (e.g. optimal taxation, which relies on aggregative social welfare function).

Additionally, philosophic analysis is necessary to understand the methodology of economics. For instance, regarding theoretical economics, can we rely on models to explain reality? What are their limitations? What is the role of assumptions? Regarding empirical economics, what is causality? Is there anything such as causality in social sciences? Should we rely on it? It is not mere coincidence that the Nobel Prize in Economics, Angus Deaton, is working on these questions with leading philosopher of sciences, Nancy Cartwright.

If you want to learn how to engage with these (difficult) questions, the M.Sc. in Philosophy of the Social Sciences is a program you should be looking at. It provides a solid formation, it is challenging, rigorous and it is imparted in one of the world’s best philosophy departments.

Finally, this program would require you to move to London. What a perfect excuse!