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Entropy 2016, 18(1), 18; doi:10.3390/e18010018

Constitutive Explanations as a Methodological Framework for Integrating Thermodynamics and Economics

1
Faculty of Economics and Management, Witten/Herdecke University, Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50, Witten 58448, Germany
2
Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, Erfurt University, Erfurt 99105, Germany
Academic Editors: Reiner Kümmel and Kevin H. Knuth
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 10 December 2015 / Accepted: 23 December 2015 / Published: 31 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Entropy and the Economy)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [228 KB, uploaded 31 December 2015]

Abstract

The common approach to integrating thermodynamics and economics is subsuming thermodynamic aspects among the set of constraints under which economic activity takes place. The causal link between energy and growth is investigated via aggregate econometric analysis. This paper discusses methodological issues of aggregate analysis and proposes an alternative framework based on recent developments in philosophy of science, in particular of the life sciences. “Constitutive explanations” eschew the covering law approach to scientific explanation and concentrate on the identification of multi-level architectures of causal mechanisms that generate phenomena. This methodology has been productively employed to organize cross-disciplinary research, and I suggest that it can also provide a framework for integrating thermodynamics and economics, since this also requires the combination of several scientific disciplines. I present the example of the “rebound effect” as a kind of constitutive explanation and put it in the context of urbanization as a complex mechanism that is the defining feature of economic growth in physical terms. View Full-Text
Keywords: constitutive explanations; causal mechanisms; energy and growth; rebound effect; urbanization constitutive explanations; causal mechanisms; energy and growth; rebound effect; urbanization
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Herrmann-Pillath, C. Constitutive Explanations as a Methodological Framework for Integrating Thermodynamics and Economics. Entropy 2016, 18, 18.

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