In classical economics its obvious that the philosophical model followed is inspired by both physics in its reductionism and biology to a primary notion - that of self-interest. This self-interest manifests itself in competition. So we may as well take here competition as the basic notion.

Cooperation as in cartels, or in a trade union is explained as altruism is in biology by reference to competition. The members of the trade union for example may find that their best interests are served by cooperating. So here cooperation is explained in terms of self-interest or competition. That is they find that the best way to compete is by cooperating.

Is there an economic philosophy that takes both cooperation & competition to be irreducible to each other? An example of competition that can be explained in terms of cooperation is a game of poker the players must cooperate to play before the begin to compete. A company before it can trade must abide by laws and regulations or at least be seen to do so. That is it is cooperating with what one can say is government - that is the body or bodies that are concerned with enacting laws that hold over all society.

One could say that classical economic theory is monistic whereas I'm asking for a dualistic one. These are of course philosophical, theological & ethical terms - I do not know whether they have been used in the philosophy of economics before.

  • I'm not well verses in the philosophical terms, but game theory distinguishes players (and strategies and payoffs). Does that count as dualism (or pluralism)?
    – user3164
    May 15, 2013 at 18:53
  • I don't think so - but i don't know it in any depth to be certain. But I have the distinct feeling it has the same underlying assumptions as classical economics. I could well be wrong though. May 15, 2013 at 19:02
  • OK, if not, then how about equilibrium selection in game theory? Many games have multiple equilibria and it requires refinement to pick one. But all refinements are arbitrary in some sense.
    – user3164
    May 15, 2013 at 19:11
  • Possibly interesting: "Economic logic impinges on contemporary political theory through both economic reductionism and economic methodology applied to political decision making (through game theory). We argue that the sort of models used are based on mechanistic and linear methodologies that have now been found wanting in physics. We argue that complexity based self-organization methods are better suited to model the complexities of economy and polity and their interactions with the overall social system." academia.edu/556829/…
    – user3164
    May 15, 2013 at 19:18
  • its the underlying philosophy that I'm interested in. I'm sure that you'll have equilibria of some kind in classical economics too. But out of curiousity what do you mean by refinements, its not a term I've heard of before in connection with game theory. May 15, 2013 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


Economic philosophy is a branch of the Philosophy of Social Science that attempts to deal with epidemiological problems of what is truth and true representations of reality within the social world. The original objective of discovering natural laws was its primary objective with the secondary objective being to find the best theory known given our current understanding. Economics is interested in positive optimal issues and normative descriptive issues. Collaboration and competition are merely attempts to look at issues of delivering optimal solutions.

  • who would you say are the canonical authors in this discipline? Nov 22, 2013 at 2:52

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