Economic agent matters as much for economic theory as for empirical investigations that are based upon such models. It matters in the way institutions emerge, as to how societies get organized, and for the many devices contributing to the “general good” (whether they appear spontaneously, or are pragmatically and purposely created). It matters also for correcting incomplete or missing markets.
As economics represents and models society, economic analysis relies on ‘representational tools’ towards a better understanding of the economic world. Hence, how to represent the economic agent plays a crucial role and remains in all cases of major significance. The economic agent can be displayed in many ways, such as maximizing agent, possibly contrasted with rationally bounded (or “located”) agent, representative agent, possibly contrasted with agent of the agent-based modeling, and many others. The different kinds of representation can be complementary or can be (fully or partly) inconsistent. The various representations of agents imply different representations of the market(s), of the institution(s), and of ‘spheres’ where agents do appear as such (spheres of interaction, spheres of justice and spheres of power), given that these spheres are indeed different from simple market interactions.
From a philosophical point of view, what are the assumptions and implications of the use of the representative agent as it is developed in the frame of some economic models? Those that use of many heterogeneous agents, so to speak, “interacting”, for instance? What makes a complex world, if not such agents? How (and how much) do origins, cultures and civilizations in which agents are embedded really matter? Does evolution matter as such? Does the brain (only) matter? Do moral values matter (to us)? If some of these queries receive positive answers, what does it imply with respect to agent-based modelling, macroeconomic modelling, econometrics, behavioural and experimental economics, and so many other fields?
This series of questions highlight a huge varsity of representations of the economic agent as well as the need for a wide spectrum of approaches to grasp it as efficiently as possible. As we investigate representational tools dealing with this agent in economic analysis, many levels of philosophical issues come to the fore: ontological, epistemological, methodological, psychological, ethical. Since economic philosophy must – insofar as it is a self-reflective inquiry on theory and practice of economics – candidly face these issues, an articulation and clarification of their practical consequences in terms of choice, justice, welfare (and on many other topics) is needed to depict and represent the economic agent satisfyingly.
The complex network of all these issues will be at the core of this conference. In order to bring clarity about what is at stake in the understanding of the economic agent and its representations, possible topics for proposals can notably include:
- The “individuality” of the economic agent and her rational behavior
- The ontology and epistemology of preferences
- Normative and positive models of the economic agent
- Economic agent, social values and institutions
- Economic agent and moral values
- Economic agent and its identity
- Political aspects of the economic agent
- Public decisions and economic agency
- Agency and efficiency
- Welfarist and non-welfarist approaches of economic agency
- Representation(s) of agents for regulatory purpose
Many other topics may naturally come handy and are welcome. We particularly support the idea of a broad range of contributions to fuel the exchange of ideas and debates.