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Extra resources for Equilibrium and Evolution: Alfred Marshall and the Marshallians

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7 Marshall’s inaugural lecture: the role and nature of economic theory The purpose of the inaugural lecture delivered by Marshall at Cambridge, titled ‘The Present Position of Economics’, was to review the current state of economics as a science, and its role within the academic programmes at the university. It contained Marshall’s considered views on the nature and role of economic theory, and the methodological principles that would ideally govern his own approach to the subsequent development of the theoretical apparatus he was attempting to construct.

24 However, Marshall was also acutely aware of the limits to analogical reasoning that goes beyond the boundaries of empirical evidence, as indicated in his early philosophical paper on the ‘Law of Parcimony’ (Raffaelli 2007: 136). So, in terms of the ‘methodological controversies’ that have characterised economics through time, Marshall supported any method that sustained ‘constructive work’. In this sense, Marshall was very much a ‘methodological pluralist’, who constantly warned of the dangers to be found in the adoption of the extreme positions in this induction/ deduction spectrum.

Meanwhile I got a good deal interested in the semi-mathematical side of pure Economics, and was afraid of becoming a mere thinker. But a glance at my patron saint seemed to call me back to the right path. , which at one time were dominant. I despised them, but the ‘instinct of the chase’ tempted me towards them. M. Keynes 1924: 37–8) To Marshall, economics was essentially the ‘study of mankind in the ordinary business of life’ (Principles: 1). The methodological approach that would most closely emerge from Marshall’s pre-economic thinking was a combination of ‘methodological pluralism’ and ‘epistemological realism’ (Barrotta 2006: 688).

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