Monday, May 4, 2009
Use of proxies in science
I am working on Chicago economics of the 1940s and 50s. One interesting methodological feature of the program is that it was eager to connect empirical-statistical research to theoretical development. This meant it was suspicious of (among other things) overly formal mathematical (general equilibrium) models and over reliance of econometric technique. Now when faced with the (large) gap between general theory and messy or theoretically malformed data, they did not turn (primarily) to modeling (the focus of much recent philosophy of science). Instead, the Chicago economists developed empirical proxy measures on a case by case basis. Obviously, the application and reliance of proxies involves many complications. Yet it seems to be a standard practice in science. (I am aware of use of proxies in 17th century physics and 18th century economics.) Now my question to readers of this blog is this: can anybody recommend any philosophical work on proxies? Anybody have any interesting ideas on proxies? I would be much obliged.