360029 :Philosophy of Science and Statistics


Voertaal Engels
Werkvorm: Lectures with tutorial every second week (Collegerooster)
Tentamenvorm: Weighted average of midterm exam, final exam and individual assignments (Tentamenrooster)
Studielast:6 ECTS credits
Blackboard informatieLink to Blackboard (Als u de melding 'Guest are not allowed in this course' krijgt, dient u nog bij Blackboard in te loggen)


prof. dr. J.M. Sprenger (Coordinator)

dr. S. Bradley

Doel van de cursus (alleen in het Engels beschikbaar)

Econometrics students learn diverse tools for making scientific inferences, e.g., mathematical modeling, optimization, statistical tests, etc. These methods are more and more criticized. The recent financial crisis has shown the dangers of unlimited trust in stochastic modeling. Prominent researchers have claimed that the dominant statistical paradigm implies a severe publication bias: “most published research findings are false”. And so on. Therefore, this course investigates scopes and limits of scientific inference, with a special emphasis on statistical reasoning.

In the first part of the course (general philosophy of science), students develop answers to key questions in the methodology of scientific inference: What is scientific knowledge, and why is it authoritative? What distinguishes a scientific finding from a fluke? Is science objective in any sense? What is the role of prediction, causality and explanation? What are scientific laws, and how do laws in economics differ from laws in the natural sciences?

The second part of the course (philosophy of statistics) introduces students to general theories of rationality and deals with the most common inference tool in science: null hypothesis significance tests (NHST). Students learn the foundational philosophical principles behind NHST and acquire the ability to critically reflect on them, to compare them to alternative frameworks (e.g., Bayesian statistics), and to evaluate the objectivity of scientific inferences. Questions include: Does statistical significance imply scientific relevance? Are statistical inferences objective or value-laden? How does statistical reasoning relate to broader theories of rationality? Students answer these questions using a mix of philosophical reflection and mathematical modeling.

Learning Goals:

At the end of the course, the student 

  • has acquired knowledge of fundamental philosophical ideas on scientific method and their implications for econometric research;
  • can critically evaluate characterizations of the goals and methods of science;
  • can competently reason about scope, limits and pitfalls of econometric research;
  • can identify sources of bias in scientific reasoning;
  • can avoid common mistakes in the design of experiments and data analysis, while preserving a critical attitude to his/her research methodology;
  • can place his/her research into a broader scientific context;
  • has acquired the conceptual and methodological arsenal for becoming an independent researcher.

Aanbevolen literatuur

  1. Reiss, J., Philosophy of Economics: A Contemporary Introduction, Routledge, 2013.
  2. Information about further required readings will be issued on Blackboard (Philosophy of Science)
  3. Research articles. Links will be available on Blackboard (Philosophy of Statistics)

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