11 October 2007

Economic Theory and Cognitive Science: Microexplanation -- Don Ross

I finally finished this book. This was by far the most technical philosophy book I have ever read. I spent half my time looking words up that were not even in the dictionary, words that I had to use Wikipedia to understand. The read was definitely arduous, however there was a good deal of substance to this book. I have been looking for someone to lay out philosophical issues related to economics and the interface between economics and cognitive science. This book performs this task quite well. Furthermore, the author puts forth his own hypothesis for what is happening inside our brain and mind. My take on his point of view is that human brains are composed of groups of neurons; these groups can be modeled as straightforward economic agents. These modules of neurons play coordination games in order to arrive at a specific utility structure to implement at a given time for the human as a whole. Over time however, as these games play out, the human as a whole can not be represented as your average rational agent, in the pure economic sense of this term. Moreover, we use public language and external pressures to scaffold our knowledge to overcome the computational challenges that such a paradigm presents.

I personally find this hypothesis appealing and ultimately close to the truth. I would only recommend this book to a trained philosopher or someone who is willing to look up words in every other sentence. The author does not define words, he rather attempts to give them meaning through context, but this does not work well. The economics is actually rather light, meaning the formal structure is not necessarily there. I liked this book for its overall theme and the way it reviews many other areas of thought pertaining to this subject.