PH434      Half Unit
Philosophy of Economics: Methodology and Foundations of Economics

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Remco Heesen 


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students must have completed a university-level introductory course in economics, such as EC1A3 and EC1B3.

Course content

The course will provide philosophical discussion of economic methodology and the foundations of utility theory, with an eye to important current debates in economics. We will discuss questions such as the following. What is utility, and how do economists measure it? Does evidence of widespread "irrationality" from behavioural economics undermine standard microeconomic theory? Can idealised models teach us anything about real-world phenomena, and if so, how? How should we measure important economic variables, such as inflation? How do we best find out what interventions work in development? Does macroeconomics need microfoundations? Is the economics profession to blame for its failure to predict the financial crisis?


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Autumn Term. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce a formative essay of 2000 words, which is due in the Autumn term. 

Indicative reading

  • Diane Coyle (2010), The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters.
  • Dan Hausman (2008), The Philosophy of Economics: An Anthology, 3rd edition.
  • José Bermudez (2009), Decision Theory and Rationality.
  • Andrew Caplin and Andrew Schotter (2010), The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics.
  • Kevin Hoover (2001), The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics.


Essay (70%, 2000 words) in the WT.
Multiple choice quiz (30%) in the AT.

Weekly multiple-choice quizzes testing reading comprehension count for 30% of the course grade.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills