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This is an in-person event at King’s College London. To obtain your complimentary ticket, please visit this link here

Event description:

Those economists who have emphasized true uncertainty have tended to draw an epistemic distinction between an ascertainable past and an unknowable future. But in one critical respect—in extracting causal relationships—that epistemic distinction is not warranted. Whether they are situated in the past or future, causal arguments in economics depend equally on counterfactual reasoning. Counterfactualizing entails the construction of fictitious narratives—narratives about worlds that do not exist. Unfortunately, there is no dependable method for ascertaining the uniquely correct counterfactual. This implies that causal claims in economics, too, are irreducibly fictitious. The chief value of counterfactuals, then, is not to prove causation but to help scholars and practitioners confront an inscrutable world—to imagine and prepare for unknowable possible futures. In this endeavor, economic pluralism, which expands the range of plausible counterfactuals, is to be taken as a virtue rather than a curse.


Bush House Southeast Room 2.10, King’s College London (map here)

About the Speaker:

George F. DeMartino, Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Dr. DeMartino is a political economist whose research focuses on the intersection of ethics and economics. He is a past president of the Association for Social Economics and a current board member of the Association for Integrity and Responsible Leadership in Economics and Associated Professions. His recent books include The Tragic Science: How Economists Cause Harm (even as they aspire to do good), University of Chicago Press. The Economist’s Oath (Oxford University Press), and the Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics, co-edited with Deirdre N. McCloskey. At Korbel he co-directs the MA degree in Global Economic Affairs.