Economics Theory, Mathematical Application, and the Language of Economics
Center for Economic Research, Shandong Universtiy
Abstract:There is a long-time debate about the use of mathematics in economics. In fact, it is closely related to those discussions on the nature, significance, scope and method of economics. This paper analyzes the essentials behind the debate of the use of mathematics in economics, and reviews the criteria for the abuse of mathematics as well as its solutions. The author concludes that economic research needs mathematics, especially in the research of the economic quantities and their relationships. However, mathematics is a helpful tool, not the only method. The opinion that believes only using mathematics can economics be a science or a “hard” science is under the lead of logical fallacy of “appealing to authority”. As to the judgment of the abuse of mathematics, it can not be simply based on the quantities of the mathematical formalism in the economic literatures, but also on the cost-benefit analysis of the use of mathematics according to the different levels of economic research. Mathematics is either a method, or a language. Economists should keep an eye on the selection of the language of economics, and the language of economics should accord with the economic principle.
Key words:mathematical formalism, the language of economics, methodology