I am interested in understanding the interaction between interpretation and explanation in social sciences in general and in economics particularly.

It is argued that interpretation is pervasive in all methodologies, even in physical sciences. However, as I understand, interpretation cannot escape subjectivity: the interpretation must reflect knowledge and understanding of the interpreter. For example, some interpret recessions as crucial parts of the business cycle, but other interpret it in other ways.

Yet, we tend to be interested more in what causes the phenomenon, or finding the explanation of it.

My question is:

  1. How can we think of interpretation and explanation in economics?

  2. What is the relation between the two? (I have senses that they can't go without the other, but are there any sources of reading in this topic?)


1 Answer 1


The standard reading on the methodology and the role of explanation in economics is Daniel Hausman's work.

Hausman, Daniel M. The inexact and separate science of economics. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Nancy Cartwright has some work on the interpretation of causation in the social sciences.

Cartwright, Nancy. Hunting causes and using them: approaches in philosophy and economics. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Another entry to this literature may be the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


However, I am not sure what you mean with a literature on interpretation in economics.

  • $\begingroup$ I couldn't mark as answered because the second question is still available: What is the relation between the two? I mean by relation, would interpretation necessary in Economics? $\endgroup$
    – Khan
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is unclear what you mean by "interpretation in economics". I know of no literature on "interpretation in economics". You may want to pose this question on the philosophy edition of stackexchange. $\endgroup$
    – HRSE
    Nov 28, 2015 at 3:39

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