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The Methodology of Economics: How Economists Choose Between Theories

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I began this thesis because I was confused about economics. I wondered why there were so many different models. I didn't understand how they fit together. I was also confused by the assumptions being made. For instance, the assumption that

I began this thesis because I was confused about economics. I wondered why there were so many different models. I didn't understand how they fit together. I was also confused by the assumptions being made. For instance, the assumption that humans are rational utility-maximizers did not seem to agree with my own experiences. With my director Dr. Edward Schlee's help, my thesis has become an inquiry into the state of economic methodology, both in theory and in practice. The questions that drive this paper are: How do economists choose between theories? What is the purpose of economic theory? What is the role of empirical data in assessing models? What role do assumptions play in theory evaluation, and should assumptions make sense? Part I: Methodology is the theoretical portion of the paper. I summarize the essential arguments of the two main schools of thought in economic methodology, and argue for an updated methodology. In Part II: A case study: The expected utility hypothesis, I examine methodology in practice by assessing a handful of studies that seek to test the expected utility hypothesis. Interestingly, I find that there is a different between what economists say they are doing, and what they actually seem to be doing. Throughout this paper, I restrict my analysis to microeconomic theory, simply because this is the area with which I am more familiar. I intend this paper to be a guide for my fellow students and rising economists, as well as for already practicing economists. I hope it helps the reader better understand methodology and improve her own practice.

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2013-05

Remixing Education in the Anthropocene: More-than-Human Process Inquiry with Place

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This dissertation deals with the confluence of neoliberal and dominant Western social pressures in tension with researchers and educators striving toward a more sustainable world in light of the Anthropocene. Although scientists see the Anthropocene as a problem of human

This dissertation deals with the confluence of neoliberal and dominant Western social pressures in tension with researchers and educators striving toward a more sustainable world in light of the Anthropocene. Although scientists see the Anthropocene as a problem of human activity and environmental degradation, many social scientists and humanities researchers also see it as a problem with entrenched ways of thought. Current ways of thought complicit in the making of the Anthropocene include centering all thought, control, and agency in the radically individual human, centering science as the only legitimate access to knowledge, and presenting that knowledge as apolitical absolute truth. I engage in research creation activated by the minor gestures of human/nature entanglement in the Anthropocene and the promise of place in environmental and sustainability education. As such, I embark on the invention of a new ecology of practices that takes the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead as their guiding foundation. As part of this invention circumventing normative neoliberal and Western logics, I take Ajo, Arizona and the surrounding Sonoran Desert as a partner in more-than-human process inquiry. I live in Ajo and explore the Sonoran Desert for four months of data generation employing basic techniques of ethnography divorced from their neopositivist founding theories.
Bodies generated from my entanglement with Ajo and the desert participate in inventing Remixing Data Experiences (RDE), a novel data engagement technique. Through RDE, my more-than-human partners and I create ideas by engaging in arts-based techniques that form multimedia art-workings. The ideas generated include Oasis, Decline, Celebrate, Precarity, and Directions. I respond to each idea through anarchival written texts in a variety of genres including ethnographic memoir, short fiction, essay, ballad, and talk poem. I put these ideas into conversation with current methodological and education literature to illustrate that aesthetic-based inquiry contributes new ways forward in the Anthropocene. These new ways include rhythms of certainty and uncertainty in knowledge creation, participating in reciprocal affective capabilities of bodies in joyful knowing, developing modest abstractions that frequently engage concrete experience, and inclusion of aesthetic experiences in learning and inquiry.

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2021