Who Cares What Philosophers of Science Say About Science?
Chris House tries to set out "the scientific method":Here is the funny thing about this sort of view, which is way too common among economists: philosophers of science abandoned this simple model beginning 50 or 60 years ago, and today you would be hard pressed to find any philosopher of science who would take it seriously. In particular, the idea that a "purely empirical study" is step one of this method came to be understood as fantastical: no one could possibly do an empirical study without a theoretical apparatus and an hypothesis to test already in mind. (To see the absurdity of this idea of step one, we should imagine someone wandering around with a notebook and writing down, "Grape: purple. Chipmunk: 3 inches long. Dow Jones Industrial Average: 16,436. Venus: brighter than Jupiter. Salt: dissolves in water," and so on. Then, after this period of "purely empirical study," the person begins to try to think of an hypothesis that explains all of the facts they have collected.)
The scientific method goes something like this:
Formation of hypotheses
If you can follow these steps then anything (even economics! even macroeconomics!) can be studied scientifically. When economics is at its best it truly is a science.
A purely empirical study is a necessary step in the scientific method (it’s step 1).
This revolution in the philosophy of science was achieved largely by paying more attention to what scientists actually do and less attention to how science ought to work if it is to fit some logical schema. And here is the funny thing for those who would dismiss this by saying, "Well, who cares what some philosophers of science think?": think about a list of those most influential in leading to the rejection of the "sixth-grade-life-science-textbook" version of the scientific method: Alfred North Whitehead was a physicist and mathematician; Michael Polanyi was a world-class physical chemist; R.G. Collingwood was a professional archaeologist; Paul Feyerabend trained as a physicist; Thomas Kuhn earned his PhD in physics and then did serious work as an historian of science; Karl Popper had a PhD in psychology; Ludwig Wittgenstein had trained as an aeronautic engineer; and F.A. Hayek was an economist of some note. It was precisely those philosophers of science who were trained in (and often highly accomplished in) a scientific discipline themselves who did the most to debunk the "scientistic" worldview and the simple model of "the scientific method" that helped to support it.