Edited by Geoffrey M. Hodgson
Chapter 8: Methodological pluralism and pluralism of method
Sheila C. Dow 1. INTRODUCTION Pluralism is the philosophical position that the ultimate reality of the universe consists of a plurality of entities; it is an ontological position. But the concept of pluralism can be applied at a variety of levels: to the (epistemological) understanding of reality (whether its ultimate nature is a plurality or not), to the methods employed to theorize about that understanding of reality, to the methodology which sets the criteria for theory choice, and to the study of methodologies themselves. Pluralism has been advocated at all of these levels in economics discourse. But an understanding of what is entailed by methodological pluralism and pluralism of method has been hampered by lack of reference to epistemological and ontological foundations. In particular, pluralism takes on a different meaning in a closed-system mode of thought (as in mainstream economics) from its meaning in an open-system mode of thought (as in Post Keynesian economics or institutional–evolutionary economics). The former can be thought of as ‘pure pluralism’, as the dual of a monist position, while the latter involves a more limited, although crucial, pluralism. It is the purpose of this chapter to attempt to distinguish pluralism at the different levels, and according to different ontological and epistemological positions, and to assess whether the validity of the pluralist position differs between these different levels. It is concluded that a pure pluralist position is untenable at any level, but that a modiﬁed methodological pluralism is to be welcomed if grounded in...