Edited by John B. Davis, Alain Marciano and Jochen Runde
Chapter 20: Descartes’ Legacy: Intersubjective Reality, Intrasubjective Theory
Edward Fullbrook The idea of intersubjectivity is the hypothesis that human consciousnesses are constitutionally interdependent, that, as unique human personalities, we form and reform ourselves, not in isolation, but rather in relation to and under the inﬂuence of other human subjects and institutions. Neither now nor in other recent eras is this a view likely to provoke wide controversy. So it is markedly strange that intersubjectivity, under any name, did not ﬁgure signiﬁcantly in modern philosophy until the last century, did not, until recently, mediate in social theory between holistic and radically individualistic explanations, and to this day remains axiomatically banished from a mainstream economics founded on subjective value theory.1 The origins of this banishment seem incompletely understood. Much has been written about how the desire to model economics after classical mechanics required the assumption of economic agents whose individual identities, like Newton’s atoms, are unchanging and, most especially, impervious to mutual inﬂuence (Mirowski 1989; Fullbrook 1996, 1997). But from where did this unlikely idea about human beings come? And why, when it runs contrary to all known experience, have so many intelligent and educated people found it plausible? Does a philosophically grounded intersubjective alternative exist? Finding the answers to these questions is a prerequisite for advancing economics beyond the reign of the neoclassical model of homo economicus. This chapter looks for answers in the histories of modern philosophy and social theory and their relations to economics. What follows is divided into three sections. The ﬁrst explores...
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