Date of Award

Spring 2000

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Chairs: Richard England


This dissertation establishes an image of enduring plurality in economic theory based on four stable and adequate world hypotheses identified by philosopher of science Stephen C. Pepper. According to Pepper's metaphilosophy---a theory of philosophy---a world hypothesis is a conceptual system founded on a root metaphor. A root metaphor serves as a cognitive focal point or image that guides in the transformation of uncriticized, commonsense, evidence into criticized evidence and thought. A description of a world hypothesis is developed using the root-metaphor method, which derives a unique set of structural categories identified with each root metaphor. In Pepper's system, four sets of structural categories define a metatheoretical taxonomy and reflect discrete manners by which theoreticians transform uncriticized, commonsense evidence into criticized evidence in an attempt to explain the world. The four world hypotheses identified by Pepper in the philosophical literature are formism, mechanism contextualism and organicism. Formism is based on the root metaphor or perceptual experience of similarity, mechanism is based on the image of the machine; contextualism. is founded on the idea of the given event; and organicism is founded on the idea of the historical process. A world hypothesis is found to be adequate if it possesses scope and precision. Each world hypothesis is autonomous and possesses a unique ontological perspective, theory of truth, interpretation of time and causality, and mode of scientific explanation.

Based on Pepper's root-metaphor theory, this research shows how four major theoretical perspectives or 'schools of thought' in economics correspond with the four adequate world hypothesis. Formism is associated with critical realism, which, in turn, is considered by some to be consistent with post-Keynesian economics. Mechanism is associated with neoclassical economics, Contextualism is associated with 'old' institutional economics. Organicism is associated with Mandan economics. As a result, Pepper's metaphilosophical system provides a possible philosophical and pluralist account for the origins of the four major 'schools of thought' often cited in the economic literature.